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A poem about bees

13 November 2010

I was reading the novel Rhubarb by Craig Silvey, and when I read the line “A bees stings his earlobe, and zips away to die,” I immediately thought, I have to write this down and use it in a poem.

Here it is, a simplistic, straightforward attempt that I’d like to mould into a deeper consideration on the subject. I’d like to keep the idea of the bee’s sting as the ultimate culmination of the bee’s life, and I like the “bees playing baseball” image, but it’s quite wordy at the moment, which distracts from what I’m trying to say. Also, the baseball needs to circle back around or it loses meaning. Where does baseball fit into a bee’s life?

A bee stings his earlobe, and zips away
to die. How long did the bee spend
brooding over its decision to sting?
Was it a brash, in-the-moment action

that he now regrets, realizing one second
too late he hasn’t fulfilled his dreams yet,
he’s not ready to go? What a powerful

way of living, to know that at any moment
you could choose to end it all with a simple
sting. All you need is good aim and an easy

target. Any flesh will do. How patient
you must be, how controlled, to reign
your anger so you don’t accidentally

use your weapon to retaliate against
some brash human hand swatting
at you. To sting or not to sting,

that is the question. And if you quell
the urge, that itch on your behind,
but the human being does swat you?

And you die anyway? Would it have
been better to die stinging than waiting–
better to strike out swinging than watch

the ball whiz past, seeing too late
that it was a perfect pitch? I’ve never
imagined bees playing baseball,

but now that I am, it’s quite a clear image.
One might suspect their stingers would
be the bats, but it’s not like that. Bees

play with traditional wooden bats,
and wear caps to distinguish between
teams. They don’t keep score–their years

are too few to make winning or losing
important. Sometimes, a player will sting
during the game, and a substitute must

be found. This is the way they cycle through
life, old bees veering off the baselines,
new bees sent in as pinch runners, over and

over and over it goes, rounding the bases
and racking up runs that don’t get tallied,
until they sting, then fly away to die.

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