a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society
Experiments indicate that bees have surprisingly rich inner worlds.
Lars Chittka, The Mind of a Bee
In the darkness of the hive, 20,000 bees
are framing 100,000 hexagonal cells
so precise that they were once
considered a unit of measure,
while workers deep inside an almond
grove, saddlebags loaded with pollen,
take a last measure of the sun
before turning towards home.
Still, researchers insist on asking
the obvious—can bees replicate
a task, recognize faces, measure
distance, share joy, and distress?
I hope the bees are amused by it all–
as if the human umwelt was the only
perception in town? What do you
think being a bee is all about?
Inside the hive, they must trade
their own cautionary tales:
Beware the boy with a stick.
Avoid spiders and their webs,
and flowers so sticky and sweet
they will smother you in nectar.
But most of all, do not panic
when the keeper fills the hive
with smoke and you get caught
inside his hood. Stay calm,
the smoke will recede. He will
lift the veil and you will fly free.
Separated from their home range, Map Turtles will attempt
to return to the place where they were born.
The map turtle riding in the backseat of my car
doesn’t understand that I am taking her home.
She is pawing, rhythmically,
at the corner of her crate, just as she has been
doing for the last three months while her shell
re-grew under the pink epoxy
the rehab staff has applied. She is a hefty chunk,
the biggest book on my library shelf. She is
the unabridged OED,
all of Bullfinch’s mythology. She is the best part
of the only creation myth that I can believe in,
for I have seen turtles rise
from an icy pond to fan their feet in the first thin
rays of sun. Together, we are looking for the place
where she was born,
that section of land that she knows better than any
other. I turn off the radio, concentrate on the map.
The news is always the same anyway—
everyone trying to be somewhere else. But, tonight
I’m grateful to the intern who noted the mile marker
where she was found
and added this little sketch—three boulders on a tiny
beach where the water often meets the road. I park
the car, turn on the flashers,
and then balancing the crate on the guard rail, I swing
each leg over and lift the crate down to the creek bed.
When I lift the door,
she startles for just a moment, and then steps out,
turning her head left and right. She is making hard
decisions. I glance over my shoulder
to check on the car—it’s a tight turn, a narrow road.
When I look down again she is gone. Simply gone.
I push aside the weeds,
the honeysuckle, but she is nowhere to be found.
I imagine a slight ripple in the water—once again,
she has returned to myth.
I watch for a moment, then fold the map, return
to the car, turn off the flashers and set
the GPS for home.
has bloomed again this spring, just as sweetly
as she did when she was young.
I see no signs of regret or nostalgia for years
gone by, but I know that she is counting,
ring by ring, as am I.
We wired the splintered trunk so long ago
that we can no longer find the scars.
Robins have made a claim
in the canopy, and squirrels are already
practicing their reach. I want to ask
how long the years can hold,
when the fruit will become more than
she can bear, but she has no time for me.
She has new blossoms
to attend to, fragile as baby’s breath,
and Spring is still the bravest
season of the year.
Cathryn Essinger is the author of five books of poetry–most recently The Apricot and the Moon and Wings, Or Does the Caterpillar Dream of Flight?, both from Dos Madres Press. Her poems have appeared in Poetry, The Southern Review, The New England Review, Rattle, Ecotone, Terrain, Calyx, and other journals. They have been nominated for Pushcarts and “Best of the Net,” featured on The Writer’s Almanac, and reprinted in American Life in Poetry. She was Ohio’s Poet of the Year in 2005 when she received an Ohio Arts Council Grant. She lives in Troy, Ohio where she raises Monarch butterflies.