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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 14: August 2022
Poem: 365 words
+ Poet’s Notes: 121 words
By Roy J. Beckemeyer

Megarhyssa

 

The extended-piercing ovipositor is perhaps the key innovation that led to the diversity and abundance of the parasitic Hymenoptera. It allows feats of carnivory that are difficult or even impossible for... other... parasitoid[s] ...and underlies the evolution of the distinctive “wasp” morphology. The wasp-waist...is a pivot that provides the flexibility needed to position the ovipositor/stinger at the most appropriate angle to reach the host...

—John Sivinski and Martin Aluja, Florida Entomologist [1]
 

Megarhyssa nortoni: pen-and-ink illustration by Craig Latker
A female Western giant ichneumon (Megarhyssa nortoni) [2]

Illustration © by Craig Latker. All rights reserved.
Appears here with the artist’s permission.

 

Wasp on a stick, wasp on a leash, 
Hypodermic wasp, wasp of night sweats, 
wasp of fervid imaginations, épée-wielding 
fencer, Mother Nature’s motorized, fly-it-to-
where-you-need-it portable drill, a real 
female-wasp-in-charge with an all-sass, 
stick-up-her-ass attitude. 
 
And she is also a work of art, 
a 19th Century dueling pistol, 
a Damascus-steel Milano stiletto, 
zinc-hardened tip glistening. 
She dances death, listening, listening 
through her dainty feet, tapping 
tattoos with her drumstick antennae, 
hears the larvae of other wasps 
as they chew, chew in their dark 
retreats, she dances, pirouettes, 
on her toes, on pointe, on alert, 
sonar on, she tap-pulses: 
tap tippita tap, listens for the echo, 
tip tappita tip, Deadly Pirate’s 
on the deck, Ahoy! knocks 
on the wooden door, listens 
for the answer: Is anyone home? 
Is anyone home? 
 
Contortionist, well-oiled machine, 
clock-spring proximally, reciprocating 
incisors at the oh, so-distant-nether end 
of her, she tows her drill rig self, adjusts, 
adjusts, wiggles, sets her feet, 
listens-adjusts-re-aims, digs in 
and sets to, robotic-surgical-arm-
machine-operator gal, one end 
in mind, assassin-ass-end in gear, 
she works her dark magic, her 
wasp-wand casting spells, bringing 
paralyzing nightmares to grublike 
larvae, storerooms of food for her 
miniature selves: her DNA-diva-off-
spring. Retrieves and stows away her tool kit, 
cleans her saw, her hose, her conductor’s 
baton, her un-knitting needle, her long 
and efficient appendage, her slice-and-dice-
midnight-hard-sell-kitchen-and-nursery-
essential-you’ll-never-need-another, 
slender and elegant, if a bit cumbersome, 
ovipositor and departs, stage left, waits 
in the wings for a well-earned encore. 

 

 

Poet’s Notes:

[Both links below were retrieved on 11 July 2022.]

1. The epigraph is quoted from the open-access scientific paper “The Evolution of Ovipositor Length in the Parasitic Hymenoptera and the Search for Predictability in Biological Control” by John Sivinski and Martin Aluja in Florida Entomologist, 86(2):143-150 (2003):
https://doi.org/10.1653/0015-4040(2003)086[0143:TEOOLI]2.0.CO;2

2. The pen and ink illustration of Megarhyssa nortoni is by Craig Latker and first appeared in an article by Frederique Lavoipierre, “Garden Allies: Ichneumonid Wasps,” which may be found online at Pacific Horticulture’s web site:
https://www.pacifichorticulture.org/articles/garden-allies-ichneumonid-wasps/

Pacific Horticulture is a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to promoting horticultural and environmental literacy throughout the Pacific region.

 

Craig Latker
Issue 14, August 2022

has more than 20 years of experience working as a landscape designer and is the founder of Latker Design Solutions, where he specializes in residential projects of varying size. Craig is also a professional illustrator and designer who has done work for non-profit organizations and publications such as Pacific Horticulture, the Nature Conservancy, Strybing Arboretum, and the University of California at Davis.

Roy J. Beckemeyer’s
Issue 14, August 2022

latest poetry collection is Mouth Brimming Over (Blue Cedar Press, 2019). Stage Whispers (Meadowlark Books, 2018) won the 2019 Nelson Poetry Book Award. Amanuensis Angel (Spartan Press, 2018) comprises ekphrastic poems inspired by modern artists’ depictions of angels. His first book, Music I Once Could Dance To (Coal City Press, 2014), was a 2015 Kansas Notable Book. He recently co-edited (with Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg) Kansas Time+Place: An Anthology of Heartland Poetry (Little Balkans Press, 2017). His poetry has been nominated for Pushcart (2015 and 2020) and Best of the Net (2018) awards, and was selected for The Best Small Fictions 2019.

Beckemeyer serves on the editorial boards of Konza Journal and River City Poetry. A retired engineer and scientific journal editor, he is also a nature photographer who, in his spare time, researches the mechanics of insect flight and the Paleozoic insect fauna of Kansas, Oklahoma, and Alabama. He lives in Wichita, Kansas, where he and his wife recently celebrated their 60th anniversary.

Please visit author’s website for more information about his books, as well as links to interviews and readings (scroll down his About page for the link-list).

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

The Color of Blessings in MacQueen’s Quinterly (Issue 5, October 2020)

Featured Artist in KYSO Flash (Issue 12, Summer 2019); showcasing Beckemeyer’s poetry, prose poetry, and insect photography

Words for Snow, a prose poem in KYSO Flash (Issue 9, Spring 2018), which was selected for reprinting in The Best Small Fictions 2019

 
 
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