Poem for Adlai Stevenson and Yellow Jackets
It's summer, 1956, in Maine, a camp resort on Belgrade Lakes, and I am cleaning fish, part of my job, along with luggage, firewood, Sunday ice cream, waking everyone by jogging around the island every morning swinging a rattle I hold in front of me to break the nightly spider threads. Adlai Stevenson is being nominated, but won't, again, beat Eisenhower, sad fact I'm half aware of, steeped as I am in Russian novels, bathing in the tea- brown lake, startling a deer and chasing it by canoe as it swims from the island to the mainland. I'm good at cleaning fish: lake trout, those beautiful deep swimmers, brown trout, I can fillet them and take them to the cook and the grateful fisherman may send a piece back from his table to mine, a salute. I clean in a swarm of yellow jackets, sure they won't sting me, so they don't, though they can't resist the fish, the slime, the guts that drop into the bucket, they're mad for meat, fresh death, they swarm around whenever I work at this outdoor sink with somebody's loving catch. Later this summer we'll find their nest and burn it one night with a blowtorch applied to the entrance, the paper hotel glowing with fire and smoke like a lantern, full of the death-bees, hornets, whatever they are, that drop like little coals and an oily smoke that rolls through the trees into the night of the last American summer next to this one, 36 years away, to show me time is a pomegranate, many-chambered, nothing like what I thought.
From At the White Window by David Young, published by the Ohio State University Press. Copyright © 2000 by David Young. Used by permission of the Ohio State University Press. All rights reserved.