What I Did During the War


The wasps feed from my body and build their nest.
They chew my fingernails and shoelaces
then fly their live wire to spit and digest
my form into a plump paper cone braced
between the gutters and trim I’ve meant to stain.
They gnaw the brown of my eyes, my hair,
the dried snot ringing my nose, a varicose vein
in my neck. As I watch them from my chair
they steal one heartbeat out of every four
to pack around their pulsing eggs. The hive feeds
on me, humming through these human hours,
until my face talks back to me in effigy:
“we’ve left you your throat, which didn’t please us,
since you’ve never been one to sing—you hush.”

—Chuck Rybak, Oneida