“Colony Collapse Disorder in Honey Bees as Eschatology” by Oscar de la Paz

The alfalfa is heavy with providence. Chewed, the clover
grows back over the road as summer attempts a return.

White beehives jut in the field. Strange filing cabinets.
Little conundrums. The frames are pulled

and strewn here and there. They are like old countries,
ruins visible from the valleys below. I want to know

what makes their order so beautiful. The way they sleep.
The way you can walk through short cornrows with your palms out,

touch the blades, then stop and mark your place
with their separateness, their bleached wills.

The days are warm. All spring, pollen coats the acres.
Fine yellow dustings, the swizzle of rye.

Everything is a low hum. When it is time to move the boxes,
the world fundamentally changes. Such things transpire at night

but now it doesn’t matter. For the cells are empty.
The colony, gone and the boxes are pure allegory.

The hive bodies are a thousand hollow rooms—
pin-hole crypts with their wax casings.

Minutes return like a drunken hand to the neck of a bottle.
There are no broods. At least at the destruction of Vesuvius,

there were remains: the hard carbonized body of a boy
holding a dog, food on the floor, the delicate touch

of two lovers twined in embrace. Here, silence.
The night bell sinks its teeth into a beekeeper’s hand.

It is that moment when waiting becomes an act of holiness
and the flowers lock themselves in little X’s.

But night does not wait for the bees. It is like speaking to someone
you love in the dark who’s fast asleep. The queen is gone

and the hive has left to find its own dance. Mist from the body
like smoke from a smudge pot. Then a small hole in a box

and absent hums spreading over the landscape like oil.

(Fall 2009)