M. Brett Gaffney 


The Fourth Floor, Waverly Hills Sanitorium

There are wasps on the windows
inside the abandoned operating room,
their limbs the color of rust or blood 
from the deepest corners of the body. 

Ceiling covered with papery nests,
tiny homes nestled into Waverly’s belly. 
Do these creatures imagine what happened 
here, on this fourth floor? And why 

the only people to come here are noisy 
groups, tours that invade these cool
hallways, picking at paint chips?
Is this room simply ideal for their living,

with its shattered plaster and half-eaten walls,
shelter from the storms that might rip wings
from their skinny backs. They know nothing
of tuberculosis, the folding and unfolding

of white sheets, medical rib scrapings.
But they must be familiar with the shrieks—
not of ghosts but from the timid tourists,
sneakers scurrying from the infestation

to unsettle memories across the floor,
to scatter static jazz to those who will listen. 
The wasps do not leave. The wasps continue
with their wasp ways, patients content 

to soak up whatever sun or stars flood this space.


M. Brett Gaffney is an MFA student of poetry at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, and an associate editor for Gingerbread House literary magazine. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Medulla Review, Newfound, Ruminate, Psaltery & LyreStone Highway Review, Wind, Slipstream, Penduline, Cactus Heart, and Exit 7. She hopes to one day own a pet stingray.


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