Bee Tree

Cathryn Hankla Click to read more...

chanklaCathryn Hankla is a novelist and poet born in Virginia and for over two decades a faculty member at Hollins University, where she directs the Jackson Center for Creative Writing. Her books include Texas School Book Depository, A Blue Moon in Poorwater and in 2011 Fortune Teller Miracle Fish, a book of stories. Hankla is also a widely admired visual artist.  “Bee Tree” first appeared in Shenandoah 59/2.

A bee colony,
black hole
in a split juniper trunk.
Gnarled, rough mounds of bark
guard a slash of buzzing dark.

Wild bees delight,
work and hover –
dive into an artificial night.
They pass each other
to cover cones with stolen nectar.

This could be the last bee tree
in a food chain of cultivated
colonies. Bee homebodies
thrive – imports mingle
without improvement,

and migrants sicken, shipped
on flatbeds cross-country.
No swarm, only purposeful acts
in a daylong dance to and fro.
The gash of hive is low

on the trunk, the whole
secret two feet high.
This fir, bearing cones
like shrunken blueberries,
with bark striations of whitish gray,

resembles a faded fence post
more than a living tree.
Inside there is a kingdom
waiting to collapse
on a queen so plump with life

she cannot see the danger
of such sweetness. Expanding
honey cores the juniper,
as sinkholes honeycomb the comet’s
nucleus until it cries out,

its coma burning bigger than Jupiter.
17P/Holmes explodes gas
and dust as the sun strikes it.
To the eye, a fuzzy spot enlivens
Perseus. To the lazy

bees, tucked into a moon-lit tree
it is nothing. Soon, it is nothing.

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Discussion

One Response to Bee Tree

  1. Hendley Badcock says:

    Hankla expands upon an image often explored in poetry–the beehive. She creates a tension between what’s natural and artificial that surfaces throughout the poem. Her concern that this hive, housed in a gnarled trunk, might be the “last bee tree / in a food chain of cultivated / colonies” speaks to the modern fright about these dying insects and the fad of home apiaries. Furthermore, her allusions to space, planets and comets, and also Greek mythology add a quizzical depth and drench her final stanzas in a surreal tone.

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