When history repeats itself

Hi everyone,

Wendy Murray, I hope you’re reading today’s post. One spring day in 2002 I found a dead wasp on a windowsill and wrote a poem about it, “Death of a Wasp.” It was for a collection you were editing for me at Boyds Mills called THE ALLIGATOR IN THE CLOSET (2003). You said it was the kind of poem that tugged at your heart and you wondered if I could write a whole book of poems that close to the bone. The result was CONNECTING DOTS (2004).

Two days ago I noticed a wasp bumping against the window next to where I was reading. I watched for a while and returned to my book. Yesterday I found the insect dead. It brought back memories of the original poem and the time.
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DEATH OF A WASP
by David L. Harrison

Bumping at the windowpane
He fought against the solid air
That held him as a prisoner there,
But all his struggles were in vain.

Never comprehending glass
Clear as air that stopped him hard
And blocked his freedom to the yard,
Repeatedly he tried to pass.

Eventually he lost his fight
And perished on a sunny sill
Facing toward his freedom still,
Wings awry in broken flight.

He had a name, Trypoxylon,
A small but vibrant living thing
Who came in by the door in spring
And in a day or two was gone.

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17 comments on “When history repeats itself

  1. Moving, yes. Elegantly crafted, yes, & indicative of your great skill & empathetic nature, but I’m SO reminded of many fraught, breathless moments, skulking up to annihilate a buzzy wasp in the window – ready to flee the other way in case it comes swooping – w/ my can of bug spray. rolling up a newspaper, swatting that intruder, in its little death struggle, off the sill onto the floor where I’d speed its passing by stomping on it ONCE TWICE 3 TIMES w/ my tennis shoe. your poem makes me kind of sorry, but only kind of

    • Rest assured, my dear Cheryl, that I’m no Albert Schweitzer. I have annihilated my fair share of wasps too. But when they’re dead and can’t hurt me, I can step back and consider them more thoughtfully.

    • It is indeed a metaphoric poem, Veda. In other parlance, we call it doing the same wrong thing again and again and expecting different results.

  2. I enjoyed your poem for I remember watching a small bee inside of a plastic bag hanging on the clothes line. Also, last year I allowed red wasps to live in a bird house on the deck table, so I could watch and photograph their moves. I love to watch creatures big and small.

    • Good idea, Mary Nida. Every creature has its fascinating side, even those pests we often go after with sprays and swatters.

  3. That has to be one of my favorite poems of yours yet. I am not a fan of wasps (though I do love the parasitic kind that prey on tomato hornworms) but you have made me feel deeply for them.

  4. David: Your poem has an interesting rhyme scheme, entomological terminology, a story line and poignancy, all wrapped up in 16 lines. An envelope quatrain tour de force! Thank you for sharing.

    • My pleasure to be your tour guide, Karen! Truth is that the wasp was female. To remain true to nature I should revise the gender throughout the poem. I knew that in 2002, too, but somehow that factoid slipped through the cracks of my mind — an ever expanding target.

  5. Haha. I know just what you mean about the target. This poem by Stephen Crane spoke to me just the other day:

    Once, I Knew A Fine Song,

    Once, I knew a fine song,
    — It is true, believe me —
    It was all of birds,
    And I held them in a basket;
    When I opened the wicket,
    Heavens! They all flew away.
    I cried, “Come back, little thoughts!”
    But they only laughed.
    They flew on
    Until they were as sand
    Thrown between me and the sky.

    Fabulous, isn’t it? Nothing to do but seize the day!
    Best,
    Karen

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