by Louise McKenna
‘Generally the bee stings to protect the nest and pulls herself away, leaving the venom pouch and sting in the invader; the worker soon dies because of the abdominal rupture. Thus stinging for honeybees is an act of self-sacrifice.’
––Ross E. Koning The Biology of the Honeybee
One of the swarm has left
her honeycombed sanctuary to find him.
She alights upon his arm, testing for sweetness
on the inside of it
as if it is the pale throat of a flower
before the white hot pain
like the sharp point of a stylus
forcing its message.
Dumb with shock, he watches
as her soul takes flight,
her broken body on its golden thread
still hanging from his flesh,
she has seared her mark of love.
II The Empty Hive
‘If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left.’
Unlike Plath, she did not fear the bee box.
She rejoiced when it arrived
and she mothered the bees.
She took delight in their Latinate hum,
their industry and rituals, precise as grammar.
She loved their etiquette,
their lessons in humanity.
Now the hive is empty—
the bees have flown somewhere,
perhaps to die
and she is queen of a desolate queendom.
She pulls out the frames, one by one.
Not one wing or aureate hair remains,
only these halls oozing honey
like unguent tears
and a deafening silence
as if the whole world is tilting
on the brink of loss.
|‘Contact insecticides are sprayed or dusted on the insect’s body. The poison is absorbed through the body wall. Most soft-bodied insects are vulnerable to contact insecticides.’|
Sometimes death is a mist the cell drinks.
The bees that tried to nest under my eaves
I have martyred in aerosol venom.
Is that merely the drone of night traffic,
Or is it the wrath of a thousand bees
Coming to solve the earth’s equation?
Tonight I dream I am Dali’s wife, naked
Beneath airborne tigresses, poised to kill.
About Louise McKenna
Louise McKenna was born in the UK and graduated from the University of Leeds with a joint honours degree in English Literature and French. She currently resides in Adelaide, South Australia where she works as a nurse and teacher of French. Her first small poetry collection was published by Wakefield Press in 2010. Her poetry and fiction have appeared in numerous Australian journals. In 2013 she was shortlisted for the Fish Poetry Prize.