Tavye Neese




Bee Legends

In the Sichuan Province of China, the honey bee has been erroneously 
eradicated by pesticides and lack of diverse flowering foliage.  The 
Chinese government has ordered all pollination to be performed by the 
people.

1
Women, men live in trees, their feathers 

laden with dust. They reach for columns
nestled in stamens, waxen bulbs of anthers.

Nestled in limbs, they cling to branches,
wait for the eruption of pears

they’ll wrap in soft papers
staying the jaws of aphids,

their mandibles sharp as antlers

2
Tell me again, again, the legend of the bee,
the child asks before bed.

3
Once, thorax and striped abdomens
circled over petals, trees, 
their beauty igniting small fires among leaves

until moisture from rind, pulp
erupted to turn blazes to smokeāŽÆ

and this was how fruit began.

Once, there was a queen
who had 30,000 lovers.

Every moment she was lost in creation, 
her eggs deposited like gems
in tight chambers. She ate only royal jellies, 
bathed in royal nectars.

Once, our hands were for needles, yarn,
our knuckles lost in dough,

and honey coated every loaf, soothed
ailing children’s throats, their fevers

fanned by hover of wings,
bees clustered around their heads 

like dreams.

4
Goddess of the Pears

Families leave blossoms, stems, at her statue’s hem,
touch her lips, eyes, asking for signs

of honey, riddling of bodies though hive.
They plead for impalement of stingers

lodged deep in tired fingers,  
arias of wing and hum.

But the goddess, 
unmoved, remains stone,

pities the absent queen’s throne 
of wax—but she will not bring her back,

she will not bring her back,

and pollen will coat villagers’ fingers,
settle in their dark hair.