Donald Platt

Les Frelons


                              Un frelon, French
hornet, buzzes, bumbles, stumbles against the bathroom window that looks
                              out over the red tile roof

of the house in Provence where we’re staying. One and a half inches long,
                              it beats blind wings
against the pane and makes the sound of castanets. It’s trying

                              to escape.
Dana says, “Kill it!” But I cup it in a glass, slide a sheet of paper
                              under it,

take it outside, and let it fly. The French have a saying about
                              les frelons.
“Seven stings kill a horse, three a man or woman, two a child.”

                              Les frelons have made their nest
in a hollow tree by the kitchen door. In much the same way, rheumatoid arthritis
                              has taken up residence

in Dana’s joints, flares so her knuckles, toes, and knees swell.
                              The French go to war,
spray the nests with nerve gas or burn down the hornets’ houses

                              with rags soaked in kerosene
on long sticks. Dana injects herself with Enbrel, a biologic,
                              and Methotrexate,

low-level chemo, but les frelons always come back
                              and rebuild
their papery nest. They fly from her hip sockets, they light

                              on her eyelids,
elbows, and thighs. She becomes their host. They swarm over her,
                              colonize her

until she’s a hive humming. Her skin is all wings. I don’t
                              know what
to say anymore. Wherever I touch her, les frelons sting.

Donald Platt’s fifth book of poetry, Tornadoesque, was published in CavanKerry Press’s Notable Voices Series in 2016. His sixth book, Man Praying, will be published in 2017 by Parlor Press / Free Verse Editions.