When the world is flowers
I watched a bee die and did what I could. I listen to poets and give what I can. In this case it's two very short poems about possums.
Sonny Bear who is a dog maimed a honeybee the other morning. I think he thought they were playing. He seemed playful anyway, and pleased, which he tends to. There’s nothing unusual about a boy raised to party when he parties a bit in the snow.
But then I saw the bee and I scolded the bear. Which I rarely do—it’s not in my nature to reprimand an animal, but in this case I did it. He knew something was wrong. While he sulked by the door, I watched the bee stumble over the snow, one leg missing, among whatever other damage I could not see. I knew I was watching a living thing die, even as her small, meticulous wings shimmered in sunlight, the soft wheat down of her body slowing.
A dead leaf lay nearby, unconcealed by melting snow. I picked it up and guided the bee gently onto it. Placed it down in a planter that was recently cut back. In the spring, my mother-in-law will fill it with begonia and coleus. They will grow massive under the sun, fuchsia, lime green and a purple so deep you could call it god.
The bee struggled from the leaf and curled into the soil and I sat on the very cold ground to watch her, to say that I was sorry, I would stay, she’d be witnessed. Two crows landed on the cottonwood tree across the way and rattled softly. Sonny took a break from his sulking to inspect the scene—he’s so interested when I’m on his level and he cannot stand to see me cry.
I took his head in my hands and tried to explain, less for his benefit than my own. This bee that should have been in her hive—huddled close with hundreds of workers like her, staying warm enough through winter to see spring again and gather pollen, to carry clouds made from flowers upon her legs, to make from her labors the sweetest thing, honey—was dead by arbitrary circumstance. It had been a mild morning after weeks of freeze. The sun was warm and brilliant. I’d come outside to look at birds and Sonny came with me. The bee was out of her hive, and the bear was there, playful. Within minutes I was on the ground weeping.
Sometimes animals make mistakes.
I know how I am. I can be sentimental, self-centered and foolish. When I wonder if the bee’s absence was noticed, if her comrades counted one less in their warming ranks that day, I don’t totally expect to be taken seriously. People sometimes look down on those of us given to pathetic fallacy, who anthropomorphize the world into fantasy. People also sometimes commit mass murder and fill their pockets with wealth that can only be described as vulgar while they pulverize the planet into a cold, ugly, automated industrial wasteland, so I’m not too worried about what people think if my soul sees the spark in living things, if I’d rather call a bee my kin and grieve her than let my heart grow cold enough to ignore any scale of suffering.
It’s probably true, it soothes no mind but my own to know what will happen to that bee’s body, to take some small comfort in the way she will, through the winter, scatter her atoms into the dirt that now surrounds her, and one day feed a flower. Maybe it matters to no one else I watched a bee give up the ghost and tried to give it purpose. But it keeps me feeling sure of who I am.
In October, I joined In Surreal Life for the fourth time, because I find it is best for my spirit and practice to do it at least once a year. There is no other community I would have rather kept company with this particular October. Each visiting artist call was a balm on our collective spirit, being read to, instructed and encouraged with such grace and ardent belief in the value of our creative efforts.
One night, one of my favorite poets, Aracelis Girmay, read to a room full of tender hearts, gathered online from the warmth of our homes, a poem by Palestinian-American writer Naomi Shihab Nye about a woman in an airport, weeping. By the end of the poem, she has fed a waiting area full of strangers cookies and she is held. It is a beautiful poem. It broke our eyes open in harmony. There is no stronger feeling in the world than this—forty grown human beings experiencing grief and hope together, shamelessly. Aracelis also said to us that night—and I wrote this down so I never forget—
How much it takes to live, to be a single thing, a dandelion seed.
There is no life on earth that isn’t miraculous. A child, a poet, a bee, a seed. Every single thing that has struggled through chaos and every odd and violent condition to be born into this odd and violent world is worth attention and respect. It has a purpose: survive. Keep your kin warm. Make something sweet of your labors.
May you notice what’s alive around you today, and what isn’t, and wonder why. May you hold that mystery and grief, and share it with those who see you as you are, imperfect, aching animal. May we all be afforded a chance to have our bodies laid with love in the earth that we come from. May we live long enough to know peace, and die to feed flowers.
Take care of yourself.
Speak to bees.
Be patient for spring.
Your poems today are short. One is by Tom Snarsky, who singlehandedly collects and curates the best poems in the world with outstanding care and impeccable timing.
The other one is by me, and exists because of him, and the little poem he wrote, and a possum I found rotting into half earth-eaten sidewalk in Portland, Oregon this past September and couldn’t stop talking about. I hope you like them.
by Tom Snarsky
and the gone little soul on the side of the road said,
one day I will be part of a flower.
the gone little soul on the side of the road
after tom snarsky
spelled out in moss & midnight feather,
everything only changes. i will see you
when the world is
the animal eats exists because you do.