The week before my mother died
the house was full of wasps.
They buzzed and bumped along the ceiling,
got caught in the curtains and blinds.
Angry and in search of exit, yet refusing
every open door and window.
After the nurse came and told my mother
she would be dead in a week,
the wasps hovered near her
but never landed or threatened,
and she never swatted them away.
In witchcraft, a wasp is a strong feminine spirt,
a guardian and protector.
The caretaker, a deeply religious woman,
said the devil was in the house, unleashed
prayers and insecticide to down and drown them.
But these wasps were impervious,
resurrecting and wobbling back to the air.
The day after my mother died in hospice,
the husks of wasps littered the carpet,
seemingly fallen mid-flight.
Their manifest, tethered to my mother’s
mortal rage, gone out of them
along with the sting.
The stacking and unstacking of pillows,
the pinning and unpinning of hair.
The rearranging and invention of words,
the unearthly cries and whispers.
Shouts and tears turn to low moans
then rev up to demonic growls.
Death has many faces, busy hands,
the work of leaving a kind of dismantling.
Maybe it is the sound and movement
of the soul coming unmoored
from its berth, the unsticking
and scraping away of one life for the next.
Collin Kelley is a poet, novelist, and journalist from Atlanta, GA. His latest project is co-editing “Mother Mary Comes To Me: A Pop Culture Poetry Anthology” forthcoming from Madville Publishing in 2020. www.collinkelley.com