Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2022  Vol.21  No. 1
an online journal of literature and the arts
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Poem with Mississippi Honeybees

That was the summer bees lived
inside the walls of my grandmother’s
house. Buzzing filled the back room
that used to be a trailer until they built
a house around it, walls lined
with honeycomb, slowing the thick spread
of summer inside—the first
insulation that room ever felt.
Honey oozed from the outlets,
coating old wires still connected
to the rotary phone. Every other summer that room
held my older brother and me in matching iron-
framed beds, but that summer was for living
room couch sleepovers, for stories told low.
Some days, my brother would taste honey
from the walls when he was feeling brave,
collecting it on fingertips with all that
young bravado. But mostly we hid
outside, away from the walls and their pulsing
hums. Sunburned, we sat with the sweet
potato blossoms that filled unkept fields,
where the bees danced at one another silhouetted
against the too-bright sun, marking segments
for pollination. We watched them until phosphenes
bloomed and blotted the light, and we had to turn to dirt
or distant trees until vision blinked clear.
The bees bounced from blossoms
to trailer wall and we traced the trajectory.
Sometimes, they entered through the open door.
My grandma had to call in a beekeeper
from towns away in the way that everything
had to come to the farm from somewhere else.
In August, my brother and I watched from outside
as the beekeeper carved into the walls,
lifted honeycomb out in dripping chunks
to rehome the hive. Beside us, bees waggled
above clover patches. That winter, I would learn
how the bees spoke, too, in the hive.
How the queen called them back home with her scent
and their scent-speak permeated
the room once filled with our whispers.
How that night, as my brother and I slept
on those iron beds, those bees from the clover
and the fields must have clumped together,
outside the closed door, searching.  

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