the rough outline
curls around the corner of the window
fur covers the body
the hive mind on its mission
Bees exist in order to keep existing.
They leave nothing behind
except sweet vomit and satisfied flowers.
They own nothing.
Bees do not make art.
Bees do not make war.
Bees do not make love.
Without bee footprints, where would pollen go?
fumble from blossom to blossom
wings shiny, fuzzy body matte
always in motion
Have you ever seen a bee rest?
If a worker bee were ordered by her queen
to drink hot chocolate with marshmallows
and wrap up cozy in a fleece bathrobe
for a lazy Sunday morning,
would there be revolution?
Bees do not feel gratitude.
Bees do not feel envy.
Bees do not feel love.
When the system came to be, what gave the first bee flight?
What made it seem like a good idea
to start the buzzing,
when for the bee
the buzzing connects to nothing else,
benefits only more of itself?
Seems like the buzzing outwitted the buzzer.
How smart can a living being really be
to get outwitted by an inanimate process?
take the time to see my eyes
where you see red and orange, I see only black
the voids in my vision make purple more beautiful
my feral buzzing fades from the world
For most of my life I have considered the frog to be my favorite animal. I still find them cute and symbolically significant, but for a little more than a year I have found myself fascinated by bees. Hey, insects are animals too. I thought I would take a little time to explore the lives of bees in this poem.
One of the reasons I respect bees so much is that while they repel many people, because they are capable of stinging they generally get left alone, whereas many other insects also repel people and in turn get squished. But unlike certain other stinging insects (I’m looking at you, wasps and hornets), the bees I have encountered in my life don’t generally take advantage of their stingers to actively strike fear in the hearts of picnicking folk. I’ve never heard of a honeybee following someone inside their home, whereas we had to do a cup catch-and-release of a wasp just last week. Bees would very much prefer to just be left to do their thing. Their stingers are for defense.
However, as I wrote this poem, I did not find myself wanting to explore this aspect of bees. I didn’t want to write about why I respected them, because that was something I had already devoted some thought to; I wanted to write about what I had not devoted much thought to, namely, how joyless their existence must be. It’s a good thing that bees do not have nervous systems capable of the human consciousness we are familiar with, because I think little pleasure would be found in the rote activities of their lives and, as I stated in the poem, I don’t see how those activities can be connected to any “greater purpose”. Bees have the sort of dilemma explored by Marx regarding factory workers of being divorced from the end product of their labor, except bees have it much worse.
So now that I have written this poem, I am not sure whether I really want to continue to identify with bees. Maybe I should find a new favorite animal.
Specific lines worth commenting on:
- the hive mind on its mission – If I ever have the opportunity to take a class on the phenomenon of the hive mind as it actually exists in a beehive, I think I’m going to do so. The concept gets used a lot in science fiction and I can’t shake the feeling that use crosses the line into abuse at times. I want to understand more about how the hive mind operates biologically. A trip over to Wikipedia might be a good starting point.
- sweet vomit and satisfied flowers – Yes, if you stop to think about it, honey is bee vomit, and yes, my use of the word “satisfied” was supposed to be a veiled reference to the reproductive function of pollen. I have been known to write poetry for mature audiences only.
- fumble from blossom to blossom – I took a significant amount of care in choosing the word “fumble” for this line. I wanted to try to capture the inelegant way I have seen bees move between flowers. They look clumsy at times. But I wanted to convey the motion with a single verb. “Fumble” was the best one I could think of. Let me know if you think of a better one.
- drink hot chocolate with marshmallows / and wrap up cozy in a fleece bathrobe / for a lazy Sunday morning – I selected these images with care too. I wanted to convey an image of both comfort and femininity as powerfully as I could in as few lines as possible. Again, let me know if you can think of a better way to convey this image (in no more than three lines). It’s important that the words chosen be easy for First World readers to relate to, while not feeling completely stereotyped.
- How smart can a living being really be / to get outwitted by an inanimate process? – These lines are my personal life leaking through. I have been trying very hard to change some aspects of my behavior recently. I am very frustrated on this score this week and that frustration came out in this poem. If I wanted to wax philosophical, I would pretend that these lines are about capitalism and the futility of the accumulation game, but that would be shadow play. These lines are more self-directed than anything else in this poem and could probably be cut and placed in a journal entry without the poem losing very much, but I’m not re-baking this cake.
- my feral buzzing fades from the world – Did you know that feral bees are dying at an alarming rate? Like, they’re being decimated. Climate change plays a role, but from what I’ve heard, human use of pesticides is a greater cause. If we don’t have bees to pollinate plants, we’re going to be in trouble. Something to think about.