Flight of the Honey Guide

The black-throated bird
who lives in Sub-Saharan Africa
can smell the hive miles away,
flies toward it before dawn,
to dine on the waxy combs and luscious larvae
that remain after humans stupefy the bees
with smoke and harvest their honey.

The humans do not possess the
Honey Guide’s keen sense of smell
and don’t know the way to the hive.
They call for the bird’s guidance
issuing a whistle made with cupped hands.

The bird responds with a double noted
tirr-tirr-tirr-tirr until she reaches
the banquet sight
and changes the melody
to signal she’s arrived.

She’s the only vertebrate known
to communicate with humans
to serve her purpose, leaving one to
wonder how this first came about
and what the bees must think of it.

-Marianne Mersereau

Marianne Mersereau is the author of the chapbook, Timbrel (Finishing Line Press, 2013). Her writing has appeared in The Hollins Critic, Bella Grace, Entropy, Still Point Arts Quarterly, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Deep South Magazine and elsewhere.

Photograph Credit: National Audubon Society