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Apiary

                                    Janice N. Harrington


                    Propolis: a resin collected by bees
                    and used as cement to repair
                    damage to the hive.


In the third year of our marriage,
bees came to live in our kitchen
and made our home their hive.

We lived with them
peaceably, communal in all things,
moving warily, Apis mellifera curled
in scrolls upon the sill, somnolent
beside the wax-hued sink, knowing
neither in nor out, stunned by still air
and unimagined boundaries.

We learned to go amidst their sodality,
to step beside their bright peril with practiced
courtesy, as in the nursery rhyme:
How do you do? And how do you do?
And how do you do again?

We lived with bees
in the way we lived with the small venoms
and incessant buzzing of an ordinary marriage,
holding the daily grains within the sac of our bellies,
learning to convert small harvest into sweetness.

A bee must use 22 different muscles
to sting, but our indenturing bonds
require more syllables, and more
have fallen dead from their stinging.

Ancients believed that bees were made
from the tears of God, that bees were the bright
emissaries between flesh and the unseen.

            O bee,
teach us to dance as you dance,
to make of touch and quake a language,
to hoard and savor sweetness.
            O bee,
sing our petitions before the eternal.
Blossom-sotted bee, profligate bee,
flaunt your aurulent lust and lavish sleeves.
Let our industry serve grace, as yours does.
            O bee,
Sting us awake!

After a few days, the bees settled
on counter and sill, no longer dancing,
resigned, no longer anxious in the dusty air.

We would not learn their language.
But we wondered later, after we swept
those small bodies out into the grass,
if they knew what we so carefully tended,
fed, and kept at constant temperature,
if they envied our tongues, slick
with propolis, or the awe of our flight,
how we dance skin against skin, producing
a blessed store against the dark winter.


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