Telling the Bees
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.
From Trapeze by Deborah Digges. Copyright © 2004 by Deborah Digges. Reprinted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.
Deborah Digges's poems often rely on the relationship between humans and nature, the primitive urges of discovery and rediscovery, and the physical consequences of such momentary losses of the self.
Date Published: 2004-01-01
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/telling-bees