* bee-ntanglement with ross gay

I like reading a poem and finding myself admiring how tangled it is in its words. When done well, it changes Robert Frost’s adage No tears for the poet, no tears for the reader for me into No entanglement for the poet, none for the reader.

The poem below, Ode to the Beekeeper by Ross Gay from his collection Bringing the Shovel Down, is a good example of what I mean. With the subject declared in the title, it’s fun to watch what kind of bee-related words are drawn in (note the tension of the second use of “chamber” towards the end, the tension with “heart” in the same line).

Another thing I noted in rereading was the structure. The poem consists of one really long sentence followed by two short ones. The effect is similar to the staggered flight of a bee as much as the subject’s fascination with them.

* comb a little closer *
* comb a little closer *

Ode to the Beekeeper – Ross Gay
for Stephanie Smith

who has taken off her veil
and gloves and whispers to the bees
in their own language, inspecting the comb-thick
frames, blowing just so when one or the other alights
on her, if she doesn’t study it first — the veins
feeding the wings, the deep ochre
shimmy, the singing — just like in the dreams
that brought her here in the first place: dream
of the queen, dream of the brood chamber,
dream of the dessicated world and sifting
with her hands the ash and her hands
ashen when she awoke, dream of honey
in her child’s wound, dream of bees
hived in the heart and each wet chamber
gone gold. Which is why, first,
she put on the veil. And which is why,
too, she took it off.

***

Happy veiling!

Jose

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