An exercise poem. The prompt was to write a poem about an animal, backed with research about the actual animal rather than just its symbolic qualities. As usual, the prompt went all kinds of unexpected places, which I’d call the mark of a good prompt.
Something in the shape of your mouth
Makes me want to bow to a biological imperative
I’ve spent my life dodging: Not to make babies,
Or to bend like a coneflower under the weight
Of bees, but to sink roots bedrock-deep and
Spread my trembling limbs to your light.
Goddesses teach us our taste for sweetness —
The bee goddesses most of all — and the lesson
That sweetness comes by preparation, or by pain.
Literal now means figurative, casually,
And I literally don’t want to use words any more.
The corners of your smile nudge and bump me
Like hungry honeybees, shake me out into
The world of language and pollen grains,
Because, you say, it should be a shared
Experience, like breakfast, or sex.
The bumblebee orchid is pseudocopulatory,
Petals shaped like a bee-babe’s backside
Enticing pollination her paramour wasn’t planning.
Furred bumblebees drone like children playing
At being planes, make pacifist bombing runs
Over your arms. Even when you flick them
Absently away, they don’t sting — just bank
And dive again into the cloud of food we must
Seem to them to be: cinnamon on your skin,
Patchouli and borage-flower in my hair.
My garden is filled with psychopomps.
Ground bees jostle with chipping sparrows
In the peppers, close a circle in the coleus.
At home, we watch the migratory beekeepers
Open their hives so the peaches can mate.
2000 miles away we pull off a spring-chilled
Mountain highway ablaze with sunset manzanita
And eye-bending blueberry bees navigating
Ley lines, choosing flowers to share among
Themselves by aura, Kirlians without cameras
In their invisible and crackling universe.