Iris, spirea, rose of Sharon.
Daylily, lilac, Japanese pear.
Summer’s hum: pulse
of bee wings, punctuating each image
in the belly of the image.
A bee in a center of petals.
The needle’s eye the center of the needle.
All summer long, my father labored
at the apiary, donning a second skin.
The cumbersome suit
made his movements stylized,
otherworldly. His face
twice-veiled behind mesh
and a shroud from the smoker
which parted from his hands
as if conjured there.
In the skein of fumes, the frantic hive
settled into torpor, and my father
would reach into the Langstroth,
scrape propolis from the walls,
and pry out a honeycomb’s
perfect geometry. He’d crush
the wax until each cell broke
and honey suffused through
a strainer, gathering like gold
in the bottom of a pail.
And all fall long we’d eat
the sweet of the stinging things.
We marveled at the mastery
of the wax prisms, at the artist
that consumes its art
and thereby lives forever
Quickening twilight. The first desiccation
of leaves on pavement.
The garden’s thrum died
into a slack idle
as winter approached.
The hive turned to alms
of sugar water, the infusion sticky
on my father’s fingertips long after
he’d made his offering.
The bees did not always survive.
At evening, starved corpses littered the ground.
By dawn all evidence was gone.
In the hospital, my father dreams of flight.
He’s skipped walking,
gone straight past the necessary
into the realm of desire.
He does not yet seek a cogent voice
or turn to the question of original wishes.
But I dream only of narrow beds, of mouths
unable to speak, wanting as I do
the return and not the great leap forward,
the image and not the imagined.
Outside, the sky is an impossible blue,
hard and cold—a pretense of sun. A lie.
After weeks without
my father’s aid, the hive vanishes.
A migrant murmur. Water
disappearing into water.
Not one trace of ruin remaining
upon which to stake a poem.
When my father comes home,
we feel the lack
in the garden, but do not speak of it.
We ignore the possibilities of metaphor:
absent hive, vacant house,
They are too simple.
I am the fled child.
My father is the hive.
My father is my father.
He is a streak of wings across the sun
that briefly shadows the eye.