My father tended
three hives. Months after
each harvest we still
dipped honey from five-
poured liquid sugar
onto toast, licked our
knives and fingers. Rich
in stickiness, we
gave away jars and
jars of amber.
One summer I was in college,
bees busied themselves near my window.
One-by-one, a handful floated
through. Outside, I found bees hovering
near a hole scarcely bigger
than their fuzzy bodies. Workers
emerged in turns. My ear to wall
heard, or felt, the rumbulation
of fifty thousand bees. I pictured
joists and beams dripping with honey,
floors sagging, the whole house ruined
by delicious treasure.
Only twice have bees stung me.
Nine or ten, I watched the harvest,
slurping honey-laden comb.
I didn’t see the bee fly up
my bell-bottomed jeans.
When it tickled my knee,
I scratched. It bit.
Lucky for me it was honey-sated,
stung only lazily.
Raised among bees, I don’t fear them,
don’t scream and flap my hands.
These days I am afraid
of colony collapse,
how fewer stings mean
empty fields and grocery shelves.
I wish I could recall the fate
of the attic bees: smoked out,
May their progeny
still forage for clover,
blackberry, hazelnut pollen,
still spin dust
into liquid gold.
Poem by Janna Knittel
About Bees read by Janna Knittel
Audio can also be enjoyed by anyone who is interested in hearing the poem performed.
Janna Knittel lives in Minnesota but still calls the Pacific Northwest “home.” Janna has published a chapbook, FISH & WILD LIFE (Finishing Line Press, 2018) and has poems published or forthcoming in BLUELINE, COTTONWOOD, UP NORTH LIT, NORTH DAKOTA QUARTERLY, SPLIT ROCK REVIEW, COLD MOUNTAIN REVIEW, WHALE ROAD REVIEW, and WATERS DEEP: A GREAT LAKES ANTHOLOGY.