I will always go back to my brother’s voice, not yet fully broken, counting to ten,
the leaves crackling underfoot, the snag of an oak branch on my old red coat
as I search for a place to hide from him. The smell of damp bracken
from late summer showers, a shudder in the warm air, a whirring of bees,
hundreds of them, whose hive my clumsiness has violated, hunting me down,
swarming full throttle from the depths of the glade, catching up with my awkward
sprint, poison throbbing in their little bodies. They capture me swiftly, clinging
ecstatically to my face, invading my nostrils, attacking my ear lobes, covering the
cuffs of my coat with their rage. When I reach the driveway of our house, I stop
batting my childish hands, stop resisting. I just stand there and let them do it
to me. My brother, hearing my animal screams piercing through the glade,
finds me. He fights them off with his beautiful bare hands.
Joanna Chen is a British-born poet, journalist and translator. She has written extensively for Newsweek, The Daily Beast, Marie Claire and the BBC World Service. Her poetry and poetic translations were most recently published with Poet Lore, The Bakery, and The Moon Magazine, among others.
Editor’s Note: Today’s poem pairs pace with alliteration, image with language, and scene with nostalgia to whisk us away to another place and time. Every sense is enlisted so that we are on high alert, in the throes of the events at hand. We are one with the girl, at the mercy of the bees; we, too, know the salvation of a brother and his beautiful bare hands.