Three times they have come to build
in a house like a woman’s ageing body:
its rooms emptied of children;
their jars of shells and agates
left like stretch-marks;
dusty books like scar tissue.
Behind our bedroom wall
the wasps smelled out
this numb crevice the body forgot.

A motor revved at dawn
or sea far-off or fridge-song
by night had fanned to furnace-strength.
When I put my ear to the wall
the sound burned like shock.
Not anaphylaxis’ torpor and chill
but rage, desire, dangerous life.
When I rapped with my knuckles
the clamour rose like fever
until I thought they’d come
bursting through lath and plaster.
We had them poisoned.

In the silence I go on hearing them,
persuading myself it’s the sea,
the beginnings of tinnitus.
But this is a haunting, a memory
from when my body sang
like a taut string,
alive: when you
had only to lay your hand
in love upon my skin,
and I burned.