I remember the night that the wasps came in;
the laudanum hum stirring the cup of my still sleeping ear;
funnelled air thrummed analog onto membrane drum,
signalling the switch to nervous sense;
scrambling for purchase; hovering beyond consciousness;
searching for meaning in the heavy eddy of memory.
Then, sudden and stark, I see, inside closed lids;
through walls, through doors, through thick air:
‘The wasps are in.’
Awake, and the baby between us stirs.
Another in the cot breathes and turns.
I slide my feet to the floor. The door,
ajar, fans a wedge of light across the wall;
light that – I have seen - at its source is drawing them to its core;
misdirected, missing the moon or beacon star that would guide them in.
I have seen the light and thickly pleated red silk shade;
the melee of muddled exhaustion and fresh attack, hard hitting
the heat, flaring parabolic, looping out and back, back to beat
themselves to death or until the greater light relights the open window.
As I finger open the door, second sight confirms the scene.
Too stark in painful sight I shade my eyes and stoop, commando,
to exit under stinging blades, crouched beneath the downdraft,
arm crooked up to ward off blows.
The shading hand now shields the nape of my neck,
which senses the sound and creeps the antenna of my spine.
Suddenly, gooseflesh. Every hair traps the air around me
bristling, vestigial, to my defence, raising a field of archers;
hackles taut and longbows drawn in primal fear of pain and poison.
A second kick of chemistry conspires to stir me,
my heart beating as their queen throbs at the heart of her nest.
In the pit of my stomach the drones are nervous as the heat of the hive
is lost. My cold sweat and wide eyes place the hive-mind on full alert;
tense to fight or flee. And I have left my babies asleep with their mother.
Down unfamiliar stairs, in breach of all codes,
intense with purpose, I tear open doors and
reaching into strange cupboards I gut them of their
useless viscera, until my hand finds, rough and rusty,
an old can of Raid. Clearly there has been little
appetite for insecticide in this house for a generation.
In a moment of perfect bliss I fly
Without thought or mind, except for me and mine,
to release the paralysing mist;
without hate or heart or compassion;
too late for second thoughts
of first do no harm.
A supercharged cloud spits, predetermined and exponential,
pitting chaos against disarray. Aerosol droplets out-swarm
the swarm and in suspension, molecule for molecule,
supersaturate the available oxygen, fouling spiracle gills;
denying the insect blue blood.
As discoordination grips each misguided worker,
their common error compounded,
it is one by one that they fall;
leaving hanging in the air the taste of
bitter almond and crunched apple pip.
Spitting at the acrid tang and sputtering
back to awareness I consciously
release the finger from the button.
Merely choking while they drown, I back to the door
and like a little boy watching dog-fights in a war film
feel suddenly sad for the underdog. Pathetic to regret
such decisive action I turn unturning to re-enter the room
where a nestling baby nuzzles for its mothers breast.
The light follows me in and I close it down.
Following fire drill I set a seal under the door.
Turning onto cold sheets I seek the sleep of justification.
How easily I weighed the balance; there is no restitution possible.
The nest will regenerate and in the morning
I will wake to walk a carpet barbed with dead revenge.