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A Beauty We Fear
     You couldn’t burn the blame.  Tim O’Brien
 

The dark rose up as I walked down
to the meadow, where that morning
I found a nest yellow jackets had buried
beneath an Asian pear tree.  If not destroyed
with care’s hand, they’d menace my fall
claim to the apple-shaped pears.
 
That morning, beneath knowing and sight,
I had driven a gray fertilizer spike through
the buzzing heart of their hive.  A crazed spiral
raged up from underground, a loud,
black belch winding out from Beelzebub’s mouth. 
Two stingers caught and set fire to one arm,
as I ran back the way I’d come, terror
driving the swarm and my heart.
 
Returning that night to fight fire
with a quick splash of kerosene
and the strike and fling of a wooden match,
I watched Hades consume the hive,
burning it alive and into my pulse – nest
of hexes, village of huts, wheel around a hub.
 
Then, like an uncured log, memory
spit up sparks and a young man’s silhouette -
armed and waiting at a far Vietnam gate.
It was the time of day the French, who’d failed
at Quang Tri before us, call hour between
the dog and wolf.  We waited for our eyes
to accept the dark and our hearts their witness.
Then, moved out to destroy a beauty we feared.

What calm can calm, then, after horror
sprawls like stars across dark’s fields of fire?


  Richard Levine