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Prose and Poetry

The Bee Dances

Louise Payne. Picture credit Arif Turan

The bee dances,

and drinks in the golden glow

of flower upon flower.

Singing praises to the Giver of all life.

Humming gratitude to the Radiance

that is beyond all measure.


Source of all in each blessed flower

The bees turn luminosity

to form

by a form of hidden Grace.


Wisdom gathered, crystallised

and imbibed is

Love fulfilled.

The dance circles

on and on. Loves eternal dance,

in the hive of our eternal home.

Not a single bee has ever sent you an invoice...

Pavan Sukhdev, author of UN report The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity – October 2010

Not a single bee has ever sent you an invoice. And that is part of the problem – because most of what comes to us from nature is free, because it is not invoiced, because it is not priced, because it is not traded in markets, we tend to ignore it.

Take from my Palms

Osip Mandelstam

Just for joy, take from my palms
A little sun, a little honey,
As Persephone's bees commanded.


An unfastened boat cannot be untied.
A shade shod in fur cannot be heard.
In the dense forest of life fear cannot be overcome.


Only kisses are left for us.
Furry, like small bees
That die when they leave the hive.


They rustle in transparent thickets of night,
Their home is the dense Taiga woods;
Their food -- time, honeysuckle, mint.


So take and enjoy my passionate gift,
A dry, unsightly necklace
Of dead bees, who changed honey into sun. 

From the Qur’an

Qur’an, The Bees: 69

“From their bellies comes
a drink of varying colours,
containing healing for
mankind. There is
certainly a sign in that
for people who reflect.”

The Bee Carol

Carol Ann Duffy

Silently on Christmas Eve,
the turn of midnight’s key;
all the garden locked in ice -
a silver frieze -
except the winter cluster of the bees.


Flightless now and shivering,
around their Queen they cling;
every bee a gift of heat;
she will not freeze
within the winter cluster of the bees.


Bring me for my Christmas gift
a single golden jar;
let me taste the sweetness there,
but honey leave
to feed the winter cluster of the bees.


Come with me on Christmas Eve
to see the silent hive -
trembling stars cloistered above -
and then believe,
bless the winter cluster of the bees.

Virgil's Bees

Carol Ann Duffy

Bless air’s gift of sweetness, honey
from the bees, inspired by clover,
marigold, eucalyptus, thyme,
the hundred perfumes of the wind.


Bless the beekeeper

who chooses for her hives
a site near water, violet beds, no yew,
no echo. Let the light lilt, leak, green
or gold, pigment for queens,
and joy be inexplicable but there
in harmony of willowherb and stream,
of summer heat and breeze,
each bee’s body
at its brilliant flower, lover-stunned,
strumming on fragrance, smitten.


For this,
let gardens grow, where beelines end,
sighing in roses, saffron blooms, buddleia;
where bees pray on their knees, sing, praise
in pear trees, plum trees; bees
are the batteries of orchards, gardens, guard them.


Carol Ann Duffy

Here are my bees,

brazen, blurs on paper,

besotted; buzzwords, dancing

their flawless, airy maps.


Been deep, my poet bees,

in the parts of flowers,

in daffodil, thistle, rose, even

the golden lotus; so glide,

gilded, glad, golden, thus –


wise – and know of us:

how your scent pervades

my shadowed, busy heart,

and honey is art

The Bee is not Afraid of Me

Emily Dickinson

The Bee is not afraid of me,
I know the Butterfly -
The pretty people in the Woods
Receive me cordially -
The Brooks laugh louder
When I come -
The Breezes madder play;
Wherefore mine eye thy silver mists,
Wherefore, Oh Summer’s Day?

The Bee Meeting

Sylvia Plath

 Who are these people at the bridge to meet me? They are the  villagers—

The rector, the midwife, the sexton, the agent for bees.

In my sleeveless summery dress I have no protection,

And they are all gloved and covered, why did nobody tell me?

They are smiling and taking out veils tacked to ancient hats.


I am nude as a chicken neck, does nobody love me?

Yes, here is the secretary of bees with her white shop smock,

Buttoning the cuffs at my wrists and the slit from my neck to my knees.

Now I am milkweed silk, the bees will not notice.

Thev will not smell my fear, my fear, my fear.


Which is the rector now, is it that man in black?

Which is the midwife, is that her blue coat?

Everybody is nodding a square black head, they are knights in visors,

Breastplates of cheesecloth knotted under the armpits.

Their smiles and their voices are changing. I am led through a beanfield.


Strips of tinfoil winking like people,

Feather dusters fanning their hands in a sea of bean flowers,

Creamy bean flowers with black eyes and leaves like bored hearts.

Is it blood clots the tendrils are dragging up that string?

No, no, it is scarlet flowers that will one day be edible.


Now they are giving me a fashionable white straw Italian hat

And a black veil that molds to my face, they are making me one of them.

They are leading me to the shorn grove, the circle of hives.

Is it the hawthorn that smells so sick?

The barren body of hawthorn, etherizing its children.


Is it some operation that is taking place?

It is the surgeon my neighbors are waiting for,

This apparition in a green helmet,

Shining gloves and white suit.

Is it the butcher, the grocer, the postman, someone I know?


I cannot run, I am rooted, and the gorse hurts me

With its yellow purses, its spiky armory.

I could not run without having to run forever.

The white hive is snug as a virgin,

Sealing off her brood cells, her honey, and quietly humming.


Smoke rolls and scarves in the grove.

The mind of the hive thinks this is the end of everything.

Here they come, the outriders, on their hysterical elastics.

If I stand very still, they will think I am cow-parsley,

A gullible head untouched by their animosity,


Not even nodding, a personage in a hedgerow.

The villagers open the chambers, they are hunting the queen.

Is she hiding, is she eating honey? She is very clever.

She is old, old, old, she must live another year, and she knows it.

While in their fingerjoint cells the new virgins


Dream of a duel they will win inevitably,

A curtain of wax dividing them from the bride flight,

The upflight of the murderess into a heaven that loves her.

The villagers are moving the virgins, there will be no killing.

The old queen does not show herself, is she so ungrateful?


I am exhausted, I am exhausted—

Pillar of white in a blackout of knives.

I am the magician's girl who does not flinch.

The villagers are untying their disguises, they are shaking hands.

Whose is that long white box in the grove, what have they accomplished, why am I cold

The Arrival of the Bee Box

Sylvia Plath

I ordered this, this clean wood box


Square as a chair and almost too heavy to lift.
I would say it was the coffin of a midget
Or a square baby
Were there not such a din in it.


The box is locked, it is dangerous.
I have to live with it overnight
And I can’t keep away from it.
There are no windows, so I can’t see what is in there.
There is only a little grid, no exit.


I put my eye to the grid.
It is dark, dark,
With the swarmy feeling of African hands
Minute and shrunk for export,
Black on black, angrily clambering.


How can I let them out?
It is the noise that appals me most of all,
The unintelligible syllables.
It is like a Roman mob,
Small, taken one by one, but my god, together!


I lay my ear to furious Latin.
I am not a Caesar.
I have simply ordered a box of maniacs.
They can be sent back.
They can die, I need feed them nothing, I am the owner.


I wonder how hungry they are.
I wonder if they would forget me
If I just undid the locks and stood back and turned into a tree.


There is the laburnum, its blond colonnades,
And the petticoats of the cherry.


They might ignore me immediately
In my moon suit and funeral veil.
I am no source of honey
So why should they turn on me?
Tomorrow I will be sweet God, I will set them free.


The box is only temporary.

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