at the fragrance garden / credit: de
To the Person(s) Who Drowned Beehives
and Set Others on Fire, Killing 600,000 Bees
When I was a kid, wild bees swarmed a plum tree
on Dad’s property. From our picture window,
I marveled at the hive pulsing, growing larger. Dad told me,
Don’t throw rocks at the beehive. He didn’t say, Leave
the hive alone. Look at it, but don’t bother the bees.
Dad anticipated me at my worst. I speculated about my ability
to outrun rock-stunned, furious bees. I thought I could,
but didn’t throw a rock. Wary of the righteous sting
of Dad’s meted-out punishments, I didn’t drown the hive,
or set fire to it, either. Dad called a local beekeeper
to give the swarm a new home. I remember Jim Buchan,
helmet-veil shielding his face and neck. In a bee suit,
smoker swaying in one hand like a censer. I remember
his calm, his respect, his devotion akin to love.
In a moment, bees filled our sky, were everywhere.
I remember wonder, and honeycomb oozing amber liquid
made from nectar gathered in Dad’s bloom-crazy yard.
I remember my bee-sweet teeth, satiated for once.
Every green room of the forest planted:
Trillium and quince, alder and salmonberry, …—Robert Sund
You could go on, I know—
green room to green room,
names scrolling off your tongue
like bark from madrona trunks.
Snowberry and salal, Douglas fir and elderberry.
Have I told you cedars are my favorites?
I see more rust-colored cedar boughs;
“flagging,” a mutual friend explains.
For me a new meaning.
Things are changing, but this flagging—
natural, this time of year.
Nothing to worry about.
Have I told you I’m feeling my age,
am more prone to cliché?
Natural, this time of life.
Weakness and pain in my right arm
is new to me. Go on. I’ll sit here
and rest, with the old meaning—
in this warming up, drying out rust-colored room.
I’m sorry for harm I’ve caused.
Why do you think I started walking,
breathing in the ragged poison bouquet
of particulates and exhaust?
Here, spiderwebs are mostly intact
and blackberries flourish.
At the tip of my old hiking boot, holey,
a beetle evades my attention, strolls
under a leaf from a trailing blackberry vine,
hides. For me a new beetle;
no name scrolls from my tongue.
I lift the leaf, only to say,
Hi. I haven’t seen you before. You’re safe.
I’m uninterested in causing further harm.
Should I buy new hiking boots? It depends.
Have I told you our time together
has been holy, a benediction?
Go on. There is nothing to fear. Don’t worry.
Know I loved you. Go on.
Beehives of Regret
Alveolus, alveoli from alvus belly, beehive
Heavy diesel trucks rumble by,
dump particulates into dirtying air. I walk, awash
in partially burned hydrocarbons. Soot blackens
my lungs. Grape-cluster alveoli pulse
and march in microprotest till they burst,
map diminished capacity of beehive breath.
I have a nonsmoker’s fear of smoker’s lungs.
In my dream-nightmare the doctor asks, How many packs
do you smoke per day? I answer, None.
Rain wakens, ushers me from incredulity.
After an overnight drumming rain, the air—
emptied of its cargo of contaminants, scrubbed,
fresh—is all I long for. Too late to move
to the country; that coal train has left the station.
No matter; we’re winning, we’re great again.
So much more to do. I only regret that I have but two lungs
to give for my country. Breathe me in deeply so I live on.
About Andrew Shattuck McBride
Andrew Shattuck McBride is co-editor of For Love of Orcas, an anthology of poetry and prose about the Southern Resident orcas, Chinook salmon, and their ecosystem. His poem “I Was Happy as an Ant” was a semi-finalist for the 2017 Crab Creek Review Poetry Prize. His work appears in Crab Creek Review, Pontoon Poetry, So It Goes: The Journal of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, Rise Up Review, and in Clover, A Literary Rag. He edits novels, memoirs, and poetry collections. Follow him on Twitter @ASMcBride382.