Communion of the wasps

They came straight up, the wasps, not from above
as you might expect but from the ground, as if
the earth were releasing all the demons
as children we were told to inhabit it. They swarmed
over us, as frantic as we were, we to escape, they
to spread their love, to prove it. Their need, they bore
on their sleeves, emblems of the venom the carry
not for harm, but sacrament. Our need was deeper, the pain
hurrying us along the path, stripping our clothes
from us, ribbons of music erupting from our mouths
more in fright than pain, music that charted the course
of our need, of its hunger. The wasps circled,
conferred, looked into themselves for the strength
they needed for pursuit but fell short. Our need
was greater, for escape, for comfort, to look
into ourselves and see a reflection less like that
of the wasps, the fear etched on our eyes, the rancid
smell of it. They came to us as supplicants, seeking
communion, faith, offering sacrifice. We turned
our backs on them, aloof gods, their belief in us
not strong enough to sustain our own. They brought
us the only gift they know, we spat it out.

Questions and Answers

What inspired “Communion of the wasps”?

“Communion of the Wasps” was written after an attack on a friend of mine (a young woman poet) by wasps. I was struck by, though she was badly stung, the wasps themselves were merely protecting their home. Violence often happens that way, I think—people drawn blindly to extremes.

What poetic techniques did you use in “Communion of the wasps”?

I guess you could say I tried to see things from the wasps’ point of view—that’s not really a poetic technique, of course, but a writing technique in general.

This poem “Communion of the wasps” originally appeared in Canadian Literature 185 (Summer 2005): 58-58.

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