poem index

sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox

Recorded for Poem-a-Day, February 1, 2018.
About this Poem 
"About the Bees’ began in apologia. I have other poems that respond specifically to those ‘environmentalists’ who've convinced themselves that climate change and ecologies of death are at all separable from systemic racism. These are not oppositions. I can despise the mode of such folks and still grieve the bees. But I didn't want to know where the poem would end, just as I didn't want to turn away my own preoccupations—monstrosity, majesty, suspense, and the sentence—where they entered it.”
—Justin Phillip Reed
 

About the Bees

I do think of them
from time to time—
just now sucking the pulp

of a tangerine
the taste of which
is mostly texture,

in this spin-drunk season
that seems to forget
—us. —itself.

At the job I lost,
their husk carcasses
with the locust bean’s

cracked brown pods
rustled on the brick steps
leading into the white-walled

hours of computer screen;
their compressed toil
missing from the hives

they left agape in the backyard
of the next-door neighbor
who, recently divorced,

had brought us the jars
of honey I spooned into teas
I sipped in the break room

and watched at the window
as he continued to tend
the needle palm and hydrangea.

In the age of loss there is
the dream of loss
in which, of course, I

am alive at the center—
immobile but no one’s queen—
enveloped (beloved) in bees,

swathed in their wings’
wistful enterprise. They pry
the evolved thin eyelids

behind which I replay
the landscape as last I knew it
(crow feathers netting redder suns),

their empire’s droning edge
mindless in the spirals of
my obsolescing ears.

Beneath my feet
what kind of earth
I’m terrified to break

into sprint across to free
myself, to free them
from the myth they make

of me and then bury
below their dance
of manufactory;

what kind of future
they could die for if
punching into me their stings—

what future without risking
the same; and while, in either body
the buzzards of hunger conspire,

what kind of new
dread animal,
this shape we take?

Copyright © 2018 by Justin Phillip Reed. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 1, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2018 by Justin Phillip Reed. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 1, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Justin Phillip Reed

Justin Phillip Reed

Justin Phillip Reed is the author of Indecency (Coffee House Press, 2018).