Paper Wasps

John Delaney retired as curator of historic maps at Princeton University Library, and moved out to Port Townsend, WA. He’s traveled widely, preferring remote, natural settings, and is addicted to kayaking and hiking. In 2017, he published Waypoints (Pleasure Boat Studio, Seattle), a collection of place poems. Twenty Questions, a chapbook, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press.

Paper Wasps

Over the summer, under the eaves,
the hubbub of paper wasps
continued from breakfast dawn
to dinner dusk. From the kitchen
table window, I watched
arrivals and departures
at their papier-mâché terminal,
wound like the turban
of a cult-thriving swami.
It was buzzing with business.

Making their rounds, their commutes,
coming home and going out
in exploratory searches,
to work, to stores, and even churches,
bringing the nectar fruits
of their labors
back to sustain each subsequent scout:
daily, thus, I regard my neighbors.

Inside, I imagined what was going on:
a queen mother exerting her control
with an aura of significance
over layered hexagonal chambers,
devoutly prepared for the larvae
that were being cloistered there.
When they emerged, the young wasps
were already faithful followers,
preordained in their senses.
Given their paperwork, they flew off.

Is it only about getting things done,
a manufactured magic,
a mindless work ethic,
this ceaseless activity under the sun?
Individuals, whose DNA
is 99.9% the same,
swarming to a meaning they
were destined to proclaim?

Late in the fall, I knocked the nest down.
It lay on the ground like a plundered piñata,
vulnerable to the winter wind and rain.
The queen was as scarce as her crown.

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