1 My mother always called it a nest, the multi-colored mass harvested from her six daughters' brushes, and handed it to one of us after she had shaped it, as we sat in front of the fire drying our hair. She said some birds steal anything, a strand of spider's web, or horse's mane, the residue of sheep's wool in the grasses near a fold where every summer of her girlhood hundreds nested. Since then I've seen it for myself, their genius— how they transform the useless. I've seen plastics stripped and whittled into a brilliant straw, and newspapers—the dates, the years— supporting the underweavings. 2 As tonight in our bed by the window you brush my hair to help me sleep, and clean the brush as my mother did, offering the nest to the updraft. I'd like to think it will be lifted as far as the river, and catch in some white sycamore, or drift, too light to sink, into the shaded inlets, the bank-moss, where small fish, frogs, and insects lay their eggs. Would this constitute an afterlife? The story goes that sailors, moored for weeks off islands they called paradise, stood in the early sunlight cutting their hair. And the rare birds there, nameless, almost extinct, came down around them and cleaned the decks and disappeared into the trees above the sea.
Deborah Digges - 1950-2009
It fell to me to tell the bees, though I had wanted another duty— to be the scribbler at his death, there chart the third day's quickening. But fate said no, it falls to you to tell the bees, the middle daughter. So it was written at your birth. I wanted to keep the fire, working the constant arranging and shifting of the coals blown flaring, my cheeks flushed red, my bed laid down before the fire, myself anonymous among the strangers there who'd come and go. But destiny said no. It falls to you to tell the bees, it said. I wanted to be the one to wash his linens, boiling the death-soiled sheets, using the waters for my tea. I might have been the one to seal his solitude with mud and thatch and string, the webs he parted every morning, the hounds' hair combed from brushes, the dust swept into piles with sparrows' feathers. Who makes the laws that live inside the brick and mortar of a name, selects the seeds, garden or wild, brings forth the foliage grown up around it through drought or blight or blossom, the honey darkening in the bitter years, the combs like funeral lace or wedding veils steeped in oak gall and rainwater, sequined of rent wings. And so arrayed I set out, this once obedient, toward the hives' domed skeps on evening's hill, five tombs alight. I thought I heard the thrash and moaning of confinement, beyond the century, a calling across dreams, as if asked to make haste just out of sleep. I knelt and waited. The voice that found me gave the news. Up flew the bees toward his orchards.