Fleda Brown’s poem, “Ode on Bees,” appears in Michigan Quarterly Review’s Summer 2019 issue.
The summer populations of flying insects
have fallen by more than 80 percent
in the past quarter century. This fact
is a fact I can’t think of very long.
Bees are good at holding themselves away
from my consciousness with their
furry selves. They contort and arch into
their blooms. When I do think of them,
it is a pure, balsamic sadness, dark
and rich, which unfortunately draws
them closer as if I were a bloom myself.
To become optimistic about bees,
I believe, requires math. You have to see
the math of their bodies as part of
the greater math, the specific order in which they
visit flowers demonstrative
of how the work of the universe can be
flawless. How theories of living are
nothing next to living. Once a bee
has identified the taste, the smell,
the touch, it flies a figure eight and waggles
at the crossing. The angle of waggle
points the direction. The speed tells how far
to go. And bees remember protein
content, level of toxins. And even if they
die, and the dragonflies die, and
the flies, zero is not nothing after all:
it is holding open the door.