A red welt blossoms as memory—
only it’s not memory, not exactly.
What I call memory is merely an image
ringed with potential, unverified:
a purple clover in a field of grass,
bee-stung, or the possibility of pain.
The mind learns to spread white lies,
and tethers second-hand stories
to the particulars of pain and poison.
Years later I watch a fat bumblebee
lolling the head of a purple clover.
We both steal nectar sips; I pluck a petal
and pierce it with my small, white teeth.
I keep thinking the memory is bee,
but in fact it is bee-sting. I trust myself less.
Later still I step on a ground wasps’ nest
and make no sound. I hear them waking:
tuneless static crowds the open airwaves.
I accept the landmine as if stillness
could delay the swarm, and it does.
The understanding of pain is not pain itself:
a flesh memory forms for a moment
that never was. Electric comprehension.
I step off the mine and the wasps burrow
into the tender arch of my foot,
quiver beneath my translucent skin,
each one a splinter vibrating with purpose.
In a poem made of wax, we wait
for a clear tessellation of metaphor,
but I keep coming back to amnesia
and whether loss might be a kind of solace.
I rest in the language of honey and hive;
I listen, again, for the queen’s long piping.