We lunch beneath a tiki-fringe umbrella
to celebrate the autumn sun that stays.
Flies attack our sandwiches. We swat
and swat and chew our chicken salad.
Between the plates, I see a yellowjacket
creeping toward your can of soda.
Many years ago my boss told me about
a football game at a college in Ohio.
Beside him in the stands, a man was cheering
through the final down, gripping his beer.
Just as the score was turning, he took a swig
of froth that held a yellowjacket.
“Dead in ten minutes,” my boss told me—
“he was allergic.”
Thirty years have passed. My long-retired
boss has died a slower death. And something
in the light this time of year reminds
me how we cannot trust in warmth or even
sustenance. I watch you lift the can of Coke
and hold my breath. You take a sip and swallow
chill and effervescence. Time out.
A taste of the coming season.