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Necrophoresis


ISSUE:  Summer 2011

The workers specialize according to their age.
At first they feed the queen her royal jelly
and then they nurse the larvae in their combs.
Some gorge themselves with nectar ferried
by the foragers and some off load the brightlycolored
pollen to pack like pigment into cells.

As they mature they do the harder work
in search of blooming anything. Back and forth,
they go, back and forth, according to the language
of a dance, which also sends them to their deaths.

That’s how it goes. And the queen herself gets
everything she needs as long as she makes brood,
and if she doesn’t, if she slows and falters,
the mood inside the chambers alters and the colony
contrives a rival protected in a special cell.

In middle age, among the domestiques that tidy up
the combs, a few learn to carry out the dead.
Not a universal instinct, although almost all will stop
to lick the corpses, while others walk around or over,
tug or nudge the carcasses short distances and then give up,

but the persistent ones will shove the bodies
out the entrance to the landing board.
Sometimes that’s far enough, and other times,
they’re pushed into the littered grass below
or lifted in the air by others and flown off, not very far,
but far enough that when they’re dropped they disappear.

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