In your earliest memory, you are lying in bed screaming that the walls sounded like bees, like an oncoming storm. No one came to save you when the plaster broke and the angry swarm moved in.
But that was only the first time.
At seven, a drunken honeybee buried its stinger into the soft skin of your cheek. Twelve when you were chased through the backyard, hot welts blooming across your thighs. Sixteen when they found your lips, left them red and flaming.
Some people don’t know that bee stings can scar.
Even after you left, after you thought you were safe, you dream of all the homes you had that were held together with poison. When you wake, there is a swarm in your veins.
Last summer, you sat on a quiet park bench with your newborn son asleep in your arms. You unwrapped his blankets so that his jaundiced skin could touch as much sunlight as possible. Your milk had just come in.
A lone bee found the back of your arm, just inches away from his still unbathed head.
Maybe it was adrenaline, or the fact that you were still bleeding, but that was the moment when you began to consider all of the ways that your body holds poison: There is hot skin. There are welts. There is the way blood rages.
These days, you don’t tell anyone about the drone you keep in your chest. When you manage to sleep, you dream of bees erupting from your mouth. When you chase your son down the sidewalk, there is a crush of bees following you. And tonight while your son sleeps, you pull a dead bee from his hair.
-- Amanda Roth (she/her) is a poet and folklorist living in Central Texas. Her debut poetry collection, A Mother's Hunger, was released in 2021. She is a poetry reader for Longleaf Review and co-host of the fairy tale podcast, Retell Me. She is published or forthcoming in Portland Review, Hayden's Ferry Review, Kissing Dynamite, Literary Mama, Five Minutes, and elsewhere.