Marlena Chertock

As we ran in the backyard

dad stepped on a buried bee nest
and screamed a word I didn't know
in a tone I recognized well.

As he ran-hopped into the house
through the sliding glass door,
I tried to catch him
with legs like a caterpillar.

Get ice, quick, god,
it hurts. It's swelling
Once, angry, at dinner, he said:
my burger is bloody. And left.

Outside, the disgruntled bees stopped
swarming. Hums muffled underground,
their stingers resting, unlike their brothers
who pierced the soft skin of dad's foot.

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Marlena Chertock is the Poetry Editor for District Lit. Her first collection of poetry, On that one-way trip to Mars, is available from Bottlecap Press. Her poems and short stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Crab Fat, Dear Robot: An Anthology of Epistolary Science Fiction, The Fem, The Little Patuxent Review, Moonsick and Paper Darts. Find her at or @mchertock.