from Bee Suit: Spring Chores with Grandfather
The same hyper-attenuated rage that is in him
is in me. That residue of anger, People take notice,
the pastor says. Of every compulsion, the bees’
curses are too deep for groans. They rise slowly,
disinterestedly, as being outside of our being.
I don’t know what you expected, my grandfather says.
Our estrangement is profound—mythic
but realized, familiar but somehow exotic.
I know who I am, he says. As if I didn’t know.
He says I show remarkable promise. You are possessed of
that rare combination—good teaching and luck.
Other nights, he yells but I just make faces,
talking like I understand, real slow.
Having swarmed, thousands of bees settle,
suspended from a maidenhair tree in a gourd-like horn,
bulbous, but faintly decorous; They will raise a queen
and depart, he says. The bees are indispensable for
attending to their own needs, which, ironically, they teach.
We are capable, energetic students; Have you ever seen
anything so beautiful and lonesome, he asks?
He is trying a bright new plausible thing.
I might have said goodbye, I might have cried,
but more than his tears it’s my own tears I hate.
There, there, there, he says, speaking past me but lovingly
close—love in the craw of my throat and nowhere to go.
Later, we repair to the kitchen for a simple glass of water.
The bees suffocate the queen, fanning their incendiary
claims, applying a low-grade pressure until she burns
from inside: a picture of domestic confinement
and sweet excess both. Something about her crosstemperedness
made them hateful,
she, who hated for no reason they could understand.
The bees had simply outgrown their need of love.
If I could, I would write in big red letters on the hive:
No Love Lost Here. It is the clearest expression I know.
Still, even here, she managed to find storerooms
for their impoverished care; like a send-up,
balled tightly in a fist, she danced
with everybody and nobody.
I only seem to be growing more vigorous
as a child that does not especially know
better presides over the faintest touch:
the side-note to pleasure—pure distraction—flares,
my lips pulse, throbbing, medicinally. The bees are preserved
as body conduces to honey, as honey to flesh. Together,
we perceive a surfeit of questions growing between
us: biggest taker? most unselfish? I forgive
the bees’ exaggerated sense of self, they ignore
my reticence. We are nearly translucent
from light coming in, an inordinate smoothness
appears then disappears
at my wrists. We’re tired and extravagant.
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