Hornets’ Nest

 “I really feel I can touch you even in this darkness when I pray.”
    —War correspondent James Foley (1973—2014)
           from his last message to his family

Man Jack the man is, just” Gerard Manley Hopkins


Recovered now enough to scrub the deck,
which turned dun brown with insidious dirt
and cobwebs in the months I twisted, hurt-
ing in yet one more hospital bed, my spine a wreck,

my wobbling brain awash in static bubbles
instead of what I used to tell myself were tough,
astringent thoughts. Oh, Lord, they say, the troubles
I’ve seen. Well, Jack, get over that self-pity stuff.

Your dear wife has a job for you to do,
so do it. Soap & water (warm works best),
a sponge, a piston stream of water and, Jack, you
have it! Progress! Until you spray a hidden nest

of hornets, who come at you, each a fighter plane
zigging this way, then that, to catch you by surprise
as your left wrist then your right foot erupt in pain.
And now they’ve found your face, and both your eyes,

and you beat what the Brits call a hasty retreat.
But dammit this is your porch, your house, your home,
and if these S.O.B.s had just remained discreet
or—better—stayed hidden in their aerodrome

you might have done the live let live. But no! Not now.
This is war, and either you or they will have to go.
And so you grab two cans of Raid and POW!
And it’s right in the kisser, as Gleason would say. Hello

my pretty ones! By now I’m hornet mad myself, and keep
hitting them with everything I’ve got. And they hit back
with everything they’ve got. Worse, they have deep
reserves, as one winged fiend multiplies by twenty, Jack.

And soon you’re like Cuchulain swinging at the sea
as wave on wave keeps coming in. And in the end
you know you cannot win, though you win this round. Be
there when they swarm me, You, my first, fast, last Friend.

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