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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:


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