by John Bensko
From the unpainted porch rail
they gather the frieze and work it
in their mouths to a papery nest.
Sitting on a twig, they'll hear a laughing child
and turn toward it. Two bannered
black and yellow, they warn: here flies pain.
Some would call them familial. They live
so densely in their gray, buzzing hive.
Let the innocent strike and learn.
Can such ferocity be tame enough
for love? Once, traveling near
a deserted house, we stopped to pass
the night, and found in the parlor
a hanging nest. A broken window
was passage to the field. Next morning,
my son asleep, I watched a fly
upon his lid. Then swooped down
the fearsome hornet, took and wrapped
the fly in a sticky paste. I could not
help myself. I watched in still
silence while it prepared
its meal with patience, full of care
above the barely twitching eye.
John Bensko won the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award for Green Soldiers (Yale U Press). He has published three other volumes--The Waterman's Children (U of Massachusetts Press); The Iron City (U of Illinois Press); and the newly released Visitations (U of Tampa Press). To read a review of Visitations, see our Book Review section.