It is Columbus Day, an Indian Summer Monday.
I sit against the warm wall of my townhouse
enjoying the beauty of the mums and a few
gallant rhododendron buds racing the fall freeze.
Beside me supine on a twig is a brown wasp.
She must be nearing death in her compressed cycle.
I know her very well. She has never complained.
Complaining serves no purpose.
She is motionless on that twig and I wish I could
preserve her in amber like the prehistoric insects
in the museum. I make an effort to preserve
each detail in the amber of memory
concentrating on the wings which are folded perhaps
never to fly again. I think of her finding out
that the cancer has returned after all those years,
her efforts to make the most of her compressed cycle.
She has never married, only loved well,
travelling and taking pleasure in small things.
Unable to have children, every child is her own,
Every heartache is her own.
Still she rests on the tiny branch, unmoving.
When I think of cancer, I think of slow wasting away,
the loss of weight, the dwindling.
She looks so alive there. Her dwindling is internal.
It is last week. She takes me to lunch. She eats every bite,
savoring it as if every bite is a last supper. She has had
months of radiation and chemo. The cancer has spread to
her bones, her brain, her liver. She continues to eat.
She is determined to fight to the end of the cycle,
moving slightly in the grass. I hear her buzz,
electric in the noonday sun. The wings shudder
then the buzz is gone, the stillness echoes.