Wasp Medicine

You stumble through my bedroom

air made choppy by these hands trembling 

under a pale blue blanket. I hold

breath like holding in an answer

and try slipping out of this house

through a slit

in my body. You interrupt, tap, tap, tap, 

insist you’re heard looking for 

a way out too, knock fake 

wood panels, peck yourself hello/goodbye 

in the mirror. Pretend to ignore me—I should 

be at school where Ms. Benson erases a new 

vocab word—INCOGNITO floats 

into my hair as white dust.

For once, I don’t duck or hide from

the way you beat walls, glass, your body.

Tap, tap, tap. You come round 

when it’s quiet not like those June 

bugs and moths who come in with cops 

stomping through their questions,

calling Mom Ma’am as in Ma’am we ain’t gonna 

tell you again. Sit down and 

shut up. They ignore me, keep their eyes 

down, looking sorry as they wait for 

Jerry to tie his boots and pat him 

on the back like he’s done a good job— 

Come on, Buddy. You’re a wasp, 

a loose nail, why don’t you 

stagger in on the crash 

of his hammer into the face 

of both TVs. I know you could 

land on his hand holding scissors over 

my sister Lora’s head and my head

and sting and sting 

his other hand locks

Mom on the other side 

of a door. You could churn, 

an angry bullet, in his mouth before 

he spits the word bitches.

But you don’t. I come closer—not too close,

stand in the middle of brown carpet, 

to watch you crawl 

up the window, your legs tickle 

the ribs of his barn, your stinger drags 

across a mud-chipped sow and you rise 

out of his rusted burn 

barrel that he feeds plastic, just to piss 

off Mom, but she’s pretty much blind to it since 

he burned her address books, old letters, Papa Ben’s 

baby photo. Your beating body is 

a search for a weakness, an opening. If 

I extend my arm I could graze a wing

and then maybe touch the first wasp

that welcomed us here that May

weekend two years ago. There’s no escaping

you were a warning 

bolt, my sister’s scream

when we walked round his pool’s rim.

I never saw you—swallowed 

by her hair. I reached for whatever 

I could find. A screwdriver.

I didn’t know 

what made her scream.

I’d never seen a wasp before. We lived in 

St Louis, on Bloom, where I accidentally

stepped on the baby tongues of slugs

outside our red door. I even tried to save a worm 

from a robin. But that was before 

Jerry. He knew a wasp

before he saw one and pushed Lora. 

Her hair spread like branches 

of a winter elm. In six feet of fluid 

sky, she was still, silent,

could have been dead. 

For a moment, clouds caught in 

her hair; and you, seed

of lightning, nowhere 

to be seen. 

Emily Davis-Fletcher

Emily Davis-Fletcher earned her BFA in creative writing from Stephens College, her MA in women’s studies from the National University of Ireland Galway, and her MFA in creative writing from Hollins University. Her poetry has been published in Southword, Crannóg Magazine, the Irish Examiner, and The High Window, among other journals and anthologies. She has taught creativity and poetry workshops at the University of South Carolina Beaufort and the Pat Conroy Literary Center. In 2018, Emily was selected to read at the Cork International Poetry Festival Introductions Reading; and, in 2019, her poem ‘Sow Calling’ was a finalist in the Sublingua Prize for Poetry. Most recently, her chapbook manuscript was a semi-finalist in the Baltic Chapbook Competition 2023.