Now I hold no fear

of bullet-bright wasps,

scorch and sting, watchful,

wax-silent. All know

I am with the bees,

dusted with secrets.


The carpenter started it,

web-befouled and ebony

exhausted. I offered quarter-

oranges from my plate.

How she sipped sweet life

back into her body, then

buzzed off. Next day


came the honeymaker,

humming copper, bumbling,

battering framed air.

I unlatched windows, crossed

her wings with my breath.

Then third, a blue traveler,

far from native hills,

wiggling belly-up

on my dawn-dodged pillow,

righted and forgotten

until the fourth night, when


my dreams were fur, dense

as angsana bloom. Eyes gleaming

in obsidian billions, spine

 nacreous and humming.

One million pinpricks. Yet

I was clean from fear.

Chosen. Now


where I am they follow,

claws kissing skin, humming

with hornet gossip, bark

and blossom, span of swarm-

sun-secrets, too many

to recount. No half-tame hive

has since swelled unwanted

in my streets. Pollen

no longer glasses my eyes.

I am marked comrade, or at least


to whatever plan of the hive

mind, guiding every loop

of a dance beneath the sun.


Perhaps the wasps hum other truths,

or remain jealous

they did not sting me first.


May Chong (@maysays on Twitter) is a Malaysian poet/speculative writer who aims to tackle the heart and tickle the soul. Her verse has been featured in Strange Horizons, Fantasy Magazine, Anathema Magazine and Bending Genres. She is also a double Rhysling Award nominee for her poems Esprit d’escalier and Cursebody (published in Apparition Lit #1 and #11). Away from the keyboard, you’ll find her birdwatching, playing video games or enjoying the worst possible puns.


Photo by leandro fregoni on Unsplash

Creator Spotlight:

May Chong

Author of “Beefriend”

What inspired you to write this poem?

I’m a gigantic bug nerd who delights in most six-legged things. In the before times, I worked in an office building that had a wall just draped in flowering vines that our local carpenter bees love. This also meant that there would occasionally be these big, scary-looking black bees hanging out in the corridors! I wondered what had brought them there, what it would be like to communicate with them, what it would be like to be an honest-to-goodness “bug whisperer” – and here we are.

What do you hope readers take from this poem?

Be kind to your native bees! Though whether you trust them or not is entirely up to you. Results may vary.

To give other writers hope, would you mind sharing with us how many edits and/or submissions this poem has been through?

Beefriend went through seven versions and ten venues before landing at Apparition Lit, after about 18 months of getting shopped around.

Recommend something to us! This could be a book, a short story, a video game, a project you’ve heard about, something you’re working on, etc. Anything that has you excited and that you want people to know about.

Anya Ow writes fantastic food fiction (in more than one sense of the word) that will leave you raiding the kitchen for snacks after. I’m partial to Seven Parts Full because of the way it’s anchored in Peranakan culture, but The Case of the Teapot of Enlightenment in the same universe and Umami are also satisfying reads.

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