I’d seen my brother pick up a live bee
by her wings, like God inspecting an angel,
and so, on a fat spring day, I told
the blinding blonde nymph across the street
that I would show her something. We walked
to a neighbor’s house, the sun pulling colors
from everywhere. Even the gray of the sidewalk
seemed colored, like one of those paintings
made of dots. A flowering bed of ice plant
tumbled down the sloping front yard, emerald
and fuchsia and blurry with bees. She watched me
reach into the cloud of humming sisters
and hoist a fuzzed and striped balloon animal
by her rice-paper handles. My brother
is almost eight years older. He has a girl
named Margo with long red hair and a face
you can watch like TV. Once
I found them lying in each other’s arms.
They were still; they might have been sleeping.
He held her as if she could float away.
I remember the acrobatic curve of her abdomen
bending up to touch my thumb, as little blonde
what’s-her-name vanished behind the sting
of shock and shame and confusion.
Later, I learned of my brother’s technique
for stunning a bee he wanted to hold. It doesn’t
hurt them, he said. When you’re done, they just fly away.
Dennis Caswell is the author of the poetry collection Phlogiston (Floating Bridge Press). His work has appeared in Poetry Northwest, Rattle, Bluestem, Crab Creek Review, and assorted other journals and anthologies, and he has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He lives outside Woodinville, Washington and works as a software engineer in the aviation industry. His dorky and not-very-compatible website may be found at denniscaswell.com.