Thursday, August 28, 2008

Getting to be fall

Dead Cicada Killer

The wasps are dying after the rush
Mad to fill nest with prey and eggs.
They lie curled on the bricks
Embraced by death and drying in the sun.
Black and white they terrorized deans
and students around the door by Strong Hall.
People complained; wasps were sprayed
Impatiently for them to die.
But the wasps frayed wings said
Death was coming anyway.
And as for fear of stings,
I have only known one person
To be stung and that be me
Reaching into a net, my hand
Closing over the wasp and getting
One quick jab of summer.
Then the pain was gone,
The wasp free to die, her young feeding
On cicadas, asleep from their stings,
Her young slowly turning
Into next summer.

Commentary-the poem came to me the other day when I found a dead cicada killer on the side walk at my campus. For some reason I just thought.."hmmmm getting to be fall" and the rest fell into place. Cicada killers are big wasps that dig burrows, hunt and sting a cicada, stuff it into the burrow and lay , I believe, one egg on the paralyzed cicada. Next summer the young wasps emerge.

These are big wasps maybe a third longer than the image as it probably appears online and people really do get terrorized by them. But the wasp is merely intent on hunting and they do not sting unless you do something stupid as I did.

Unlike honey bees, the sting and associated gland does not pull out so when they sting a person, the pain is intense but brief. In fact the pain is a lot less than either a honey bee sting or a hornet sting- a lot less.
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