My Son Asks If I Would Rather Live in a House Infested by Bees or a House Infested by Koalas
Late summer: hurricane scraps batter the crabapple
that didn’t bloom this year, peeling open
a paper nest high in the branches. Pitiless, I hope
it’s empty, hope they’re gone, the wasps.
All these hot weeks they’ve refused my offering
of phlox and milkweed, sunflowers and ruby
buckwheat. Instead they’ve stalked
the raised beds of vegetables I should tend,
patrolled the deck when I need to rest, skimmed
my neck for a flinch. Allergic too, my father
as a child had a friend whose mother died—
suffocated when a wasp, or a bee, stung her throat.
So, my son’s question. Survival means
koalas on the stairs, lamps turned boughs,
menthol in the mouth. Means marked territories
and the slow click of claws in the dark, days
safe in a house full of sleep. But sometimes—
it feels right to tell you this—sometimes
inside the storm I want to touch the tremble
of a colony warming its queen. I want
walls seeping honey. I want a willing tongue.
CAROLYN OLIVER is the author of Inside the Storm I Want to Touch the Tremble (University of Utah Press, forthcoming 2022), selected by Matthew Olzmann for the Agha Shahid Ali Prize. Carolyn’s poems appear in The Massachusetts Review, Indiana Review, Cincinnati Review, Radar Poetry, Shenandoah, 32 Poems, Southern Indiana Review, Plume, ad elsewhere. Carolyn is the winner of the E. E. Cummings Prize from the NEPC, the Goldstein Prize from Michigan Quarterly Review, and the Writer’s Block Prize in Poetry. Carolyn lives in Massachusetts, where she is the Editor of The Worcester Review. Online: carolynoliver.net.