Swarm
I left him standing there by a decaying log, mouth
agape, no sound, still & shocked by the swarm

of angry wasps propelling themselves out of the nest we’d hit
with our bikes under the spruce on the east end of the property.

It was a sun that slanted long and low at the edge of
the pines; it was a soft breeze lifting the scent of grass

just mowed, drying in the distant field, waiting
to be bound, made into rectangles, stacked. What can I do

but pedal away faster? I don’t look back. Not once. You’ve
gotta make hay when the sun shines, say the old-timers. I make

the hay sway. I make the wasps retreat back to their nest.
Or I make him cry and wail: rock beats scissors / scissors

beats paper / paper beats rock / I let wasps beat up my little
brother because I don’t pull him away, I don’t yell: Pick up

your bike. Run! My lungs load with panic. No release.
Because I don’t take his chubby hands, run with him towards

the house to the stone steps, don’t implore him to save
himself. I see his face: still puffy. Wasps sting again & again.

They’re the ones who won’t die after just one stabbing.
So, they tickle him. They caress his skin. They stroke

him like the breeze lifts leaves, makes shadows on the lemonade
glasses set out for the men coming in from haying in the hot fields.

Each glass glistens, the ice dissolving back into its original form.
Liquid pooling on the glass tabletop. It’s true. The wasps

found their way down his shirt. Later, we have to paint
his back pink to cover up the redness, the blotchy

raised welts. Later, we have to go back to get his bike,
resting where he flung it on its side. Pedals still.
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