They were called St. John’s Wort, yellow flowers spiked with pins spilling over the rockery in the Sands’ backyard. We knew that spells lived in the weeds. Hollow bluebell stems bled white milk, and camellia flowers that fell to the lawn were guillotined heads. Sometimes we brewed potions in a scratched red bowl we found in the alley. Grasshoppers, ivy, blackberry juice for what was sure to come.
Jackie’s father kept a box of bees in their backyard, a hive of fresh pine, wax, and wire. He hummed as he checked it. Jackie said, You can’t show you’re scared or the workers will swarm you, cloud your eyes with gold blackness. They will eat you up. She said a queen lived in the comb, feeding on jelly the other bees served her. We took turns bringing each other food in the Martha, grape jam and bread. Jackie’s dad said the story of new bees killing the old queen wasn’t true.
*From The Ark and the Bear, finalist in the Floating Bridge Press 2016 Chapbook Competition.
Lines from “Wild” appear in the poem, “The Queen,” published in Calyx.
Arlene Naganawa is the author of two chapbooks, Private Graveyard (Gribble Press) and The Scarecrow Bride (Red Bird Chapbooks). Her poetry has appeared in Caketrain, Cider Press Review, Crab Orchard Review, Diner, Floating Bridge Review/Pontoon, Flying Chickadee, New Delta Review, Poetry on Buses, Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, The Comstock Review, The Seattle Review, and other publications. She has received Seattle Arts Commissions individual literary arts awards. Much of her work is influenced by childhood summers spent in Whitefish, Montana, and in Seattle, Washington.