Thursday, September 24, 2020

Telling the Bees

Telling the Bees ~ L'assemblage by Michael Douglas Jones  ©2020 

I am the beekeeper’s boy. I learned early on to weave the willow, to keep the skeps in good order, to keep us queenright during the years of colony collapse, after the beekeeper was conscripted into the war before this war. 

My mother is the mistress of the house; the keys on her chatelaine control the locks and secret doors. She keeps the inside; I keep the outside. The house is her hive, but she, in turn, must tell the bees her secrets, her sorrows; tell the news when the letters arrive. She was taught by our ancient mother to tap, three times, on the hive with her door key; to drape black crepe on dark days, when the carriage climbs the gated hill. She was taught to place white cake on wedding days, when the carriage winds its way past the Queen Anne’s Lace on the churchouse road. Just as we share the sunflower, the bees share the capped cell; we are family, we share joy; we share sorrow. We keep together. Home and skep, kept together.

From the bankbarn, I see her in the garden, on the path to the hives, through the cornflower and bramble blossom, past the honeysuckle waiting for the heather; the pollen peppers the black dress, the mourning dress her mother wore, in the war before this war. My mother walks the widow's walk, carrying the black crepe tied with a grey wool ribbon.

Three times, she taps on the hive with her door key,

three times, she taps on the terracotta top;

three times, asking them to spiral up and over,

three times higher than the vault of heaven;

Three times, she whispers,

telling the bees,

telling the bees,

telling the bees.

I was the beekeeper’s boy.

I am the beekeeper now.


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