Telling the Bees

Deborah Digges

 
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.

Poems by This Author

Darwin's Finches by Deborah Digges
My mother always called it a nest
Fence of Sticks by Deborah Digges
Greeter of Souls by Deborah Digges
Ponds are spring-fed, lakes run off rivers
My Life's Calling by Deborah Digges
My life's calling, setting fires
The Leaves by Deborah Digges
I can bless a death this human, this leaf
The Wind Blows Through the Doors of My Heart by Deborah Digges
The wind blows
Trapeze by Deborah Digges
See how the first dark takes the city in its arms


Further Reading

Poems about Gardens
from Fairies
by Mei-mei Berssenbrugge
Letter to Brooks [Spring Garden]
by Major Jackson
A Parisian Roof Garden in 1918
by Natalie Clifford Barney
Angel of Duluth [excerpt]
by Madelon Sprengnether
Austerity
by Janet Loxley Lewis
Bulb Planting Time
by Edgar Guest
Digging Potatoes, Sebago, Maine
by Amy E. King
Done With
by Ann Stanford
Garden Homage
by Medbh McGuckian
Garden of Bees
by Matthew Rohrer
Herb Garden
by Timothy Steele
In the Garden
by Thomas Hardy
In the Happo-En Garden, Tokyo
by Linda Pastan
Loneliness
by Trumbull Stickney
Lucinda Matlock
by Edgar Lee Masters
My Garden with Walls
by William Brooks
October (section I)
by Louise Glück
osculation for easter flower
by Sandra Miller
The Garden
by Andrew Marvell
The Garden Year
by Sara Coleridge
The Mower Against Gardens
by Andrew Marvell
The Public Garden
by Robert Lowell
They'll spend the summer
by Joshua Beckman
This Compost
by Walt Whitman
Trees in the Garden
by D. H. Lawrence