The glowing yellow background of tenderness makes me think of those plastic traps for yellowjackets and wasps, hazard signs, and radioactivity. At first I think, why this color, and then a little toggle switch goes off, and I think I get it. I go back; it’s more deep than bright.
I’m small and trying to sleep in a large honeycomb cell. I’m trudging through a mango, swimming through New Gamboge. The old gamboge is in a faraway country deep inside a tree.
I do talk to the bees, but I don’t bring them the news. Sometimes they let me pet them if they’re really digging a flower. Other times I’ll put a dab of their own honey on the end of my pinky and let their tongue and little feet tickle my skin. They don’t sting. And even if they do, the joints in my hands are grateful. I don’t remember when I learned that they die after their one and only sting. I once tried to put a stinger back in. What a gooey mess we both were, my tears helping not a whit.
My dad is walking tenderness: just weeks ago, 47 staples railroaded up and down his spine. Thanks to two metal rods, he’s taller than me again. He wears a neon yellow vest so trucks and tractors will see him as he walks a little further each day up the county road. He lives in the house he grew up in, built by his dad of cinderblocks and wood paneling with owls in the grain, who at 17 was a gunrunner’s mate on D-Day. He used to plant rows and rows of sunflowers. He could feed a wild fox from his hand and summon a cloud of cardinals with the shake of a coffee can full of seeds. My dad is up to a mile and a half now, his hazard-yellow vest working hard to keep him safe in the morning fog, flashing bright as lightning bugs so hungry for love.