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 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.