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Woodworms, Christ’s Tears

ISSUE:  Spring 1991
Flying out for pollen in the early spring, leaving the
younger workers to dump the dead bodies, they cast small
shadows over the crusted, melting snow. They look for
willows, just-blossoming trees, swamp flowers. The queen,
left behind, lays elliptical eggs one after another in the
sweet waxen hexagons, brood comb. Sour cherry in the
back yard blossoms, blows a damp litter of petals over the
grass; the bees work the tree, swallow nectar, carry it back.
Dogtooth violets, flowering quince. Larvae spin in their
cells, dream of flying, pupate. Still sealed, white
bees darken, quicken, climb out. Hours in minutes, touch of
antennae, a wing’s opalescence.

3 white wooden hives at the end of the alfalfa field. In a
German folktale bees were created to provide wax for
church candles; in a Breton story they sprang from the
tears of Christ on the cross

Termites live under gray asbestos siding in the walls of the
little farmhouse, chew through the sills, the joists, the
rough timbers from 1892. Congruence of prairie and forest,
Indiana’s northern moraine. Cellar, well, three square
rooms, meant to last over desolate winters, spring flooding,
summer heat. Tall windows frame the treeline across the
road, maple, poplar, sumac, sycamore. Through the winter
the white ants tunnel the warm soft wood, breathe under
floorboards covered with thin rugs, gnaw beneath plaster
hung with madras bedspreads. Wood, rugs, siding, roof,
contained within the insect kingdom, order Isoptera. In
spring they fly up with new yellow greasy wings, land in
saucepans, the baby’s yogurt, upon open books and blank
pieces of paper.

Dovetailed hive, rectangles enclosing honeycomb, queen
inside forever after her mating flight, caught, safe, as long
as she lays. Preened, beloved, fed. No termites here. In ‘79
his parents torched the farmhouse, burned out the blind
parasites. Hauled the debris, filled in the cellar hole.

A series of cells, hives, houses, edge of the world at the
county line. After the swarm, he picked up the queen,
placed her in the new hive body; the workers followed,
filed in for over an hour.

The bee in folktale plays the role of God’s spy.

Scent of sweet clover, telephone poles out to the horizon.
Past the ear, a rasp of wings.


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