In the heat of a still summer afternoon,
An afternoon heavy with wine, beer and conversation,
Deep in the heart of France
A wasp takes its chance.
Lured by the sweet scent
Of a few drops of beer in the bottom of a bottle
It walks the rounded neck,
Delicately balanced on tiny feet,
Suddenly its fragile grasp fails
And it whirls down into the green depths,
In free fall, out of control.
Within seconds the bottle top
Is pushed into place.
After a short drink
It rises up the centre of the bottle,
Slow and confident,
Through a sweet green world.
It knows its way out,
Or it thinks it does,
But simple certainty
Becomes confusion and a scattering of purpose.
It tries again,
The air grows stale,
The heat mounts,
Energy saps away.
The wasp is reduced to circling desperately
In search of an exit
Which it knows is no longer there.
What else is there to do?
Wings are heavy now,
Legs are tired.
Attention and conversation have moved on.
I remember a small girl
In another country
Who watches an unwashed jar of raspberry jam
On a shambling shelf by a kitchen door.
One by one the wasps are lured in
By the promise of sweetness,
To sate themselves.
One by one they push their luck too far
And pay the price.
She watches as they swim desperately,
Exhausted legs fighting against the water
Damp wings longing to fly.
They scrabble to find a foothold
On the bodies of those who have gone before.
Do they know?
Of course they do.
Wasps are clever.
She knows that.
She has looked inside their nests.
She has been shown their babies
Neat in their snug little homes.
She has been told how these are made by chewing.
Chewing and spitting.
Just chewing and spitting.
It seems a strange way to make perfection.
Yes. They know who they are.
I take one last look
At fading eyes, heavy wings and tired legs.
Gently I pick up the bottle and excuse myself.
Out across the grass I remove the bottle top
And persuade the wasp out with a few sharp taps.
He rests a moment on the parched grass,
Finding his senses,
Then pulls his back legs carefully over himself
With simple elegance.
His abdomen rises and falls
As he breathes easy,
Gathering his wits,
Preparing for life.
Both he and that little girl
Are still very much alive.
Sometimes in life
A tiny crack opens up unexpectedly
And we are allowed back into the past
To meet with unusual clarity
The person we once were,
And still are.