Next up at #poetrylive – Pattiann Rogers “Eating Bread and Honey”

I came across a poem from this 1997 Milkweed Editions book last month and decided to get a copy. Bees and honey poems are always worth a second look here at This Frenzy.

Since it is cold and dark here in Philly on March 1st, with another snow storm headed our way, it seems like a perfect night to read some poetry.

I’ll be tweeting favorite lines as I read,  and will work on a summary after. 


Half-Rack at the Rendezvouz

Half-Rack at the Rendezvouz
by William Notter

She had a truck, red hair,
and freckled knees and took me all the way
to Memphis after work for barbecue.
We moaned and grunted over plates of ribs
and sweet iced tea, even in a room of strangers,
gnawing the hickory char, the slow
smoked meat peeling off the bones,
and finally the bones. We slurped
grease and dry-rub spice from our fingers,
then finished with blackberry cobbler
that stained her lips and tongue.

All the trees were throwing fireworks
of blossom, the air was thick
with pollen and the brand-new smell of leaves.
We drove back roads in the watermelon dusk,
then tangled around each other, delirious
as honeybees working wisteria.
I could blame it all on cinnamon hair,
or the sap rising, the overflow of spring,
but it was those ribs that started everything.

“Half-Rack at the Rendezvouz” by William Notter, from Holding Everything Down. © Crab Orchard Review & Southern Illinois University Press, 2009.

On a June Morning, I Would Head for Your Scent

This is the third themed liturgical weaving I’ve done, taking lines from many different poets and using them to create a new piece designed to be read aloud as part of the morning prayer service in the Feminist, non-Zionist havurah I co-lead. Done right, poetry makes damn fine prayer, and this way of reading with single voices and group response is, honestly, something I learned from the Episcopalians and wow does it work in a group.

On a June Morning, I Would Head for Your Scent

a mosaic with words from Genesis, Basho, Mary Oliver, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Emily Dickinson, Sara Teasdale, Susan Windle, Ben Johnson, Li-Young Lee, Antonio Machado, Joan Larkin, Jane Hirshfield, Carl Sandburg, Sharon Olds, John Ciardi, Anne Marie Macari, Carol Burbank, and inspiration from Robert Bly and Alicia Ostriker
woven by Elliott batTzedek

On a June morning,
any June morning

On a June morning,
any June morning,
moving about in my garden
in a breezy time of day,
I keep watch for You,
I follow silver slug lines,
sniffing for Your trail,
I call out “Where are You?”

And a bee
staggers out
of the peony.

There is a dark hum among the roses,
a murmuring of innumerable bees,
and to the murmur of bees—
a witchcraft—I yield
to my desire for You.

On a June morning,
any June morning

If I were a bee and You
a flower,
I would head for Your scent,
oh my beloved,
I would land on Your petals
held wide apart,
flinging myself down wildly,
tumbling to the bottom of Your cup.
There such sustenance,
You feeding me because only I
can ripen all this fertile exuberance,
food for those not yet born.

Would You let me go, pantaloons heavy
with gold and sunlight?
Or would You close Your petals,
dissolving me slowly
into Your heart?

On a June morning,
any June morning

And if You were the bee,
would You come to me,
fill Your small body
from this place, my source,
and moan in happiness?

We are alike, You and I,
each created as the image of the other.
We fly from blossom to sweet
impossible blossom,
bartering pollen for nectar,
making honey from the roses,
honey from the rosemary, honey from the clover,
honey from the peach blossoms,
honey from the red and willing bee balm.

What honey would You make
from me?

What honey could I make of You?

Can we make honey from our failures?
Honey from our bitterness,
honey from the bare fields
of our hearts?

Rough, this world is,
yet our soft tongues cut it open,
and the sanity of honey pours out between,
where meaning lives,

where honey, that gold soup
made of sex and light,
flows shining proof enough of the need
of each of ten thousand flights.

Every June morning
I pause to listen
for what I live to hear.
I watch the bees go honey-hunting with yellow blur of wings,
and, delirious with desire
I dance directions to my heart.

I know that You will come-
it is Your duty
to find things to love
to bind Yourself to this world.

especially wild and sweet

from Alice Hoffman’s YA novel Green Angel

My sister, Aurora, could never sit still and pay attention. She chased after frogs, she trailed her prettiest dresses through the mud, she stole apples from our neighbor’s orchard, she laughed so hard whenever her snappy little terrier, Onion, danced on his hind legs, we thought she’d never come to her senses. Aurora didn’t listen to a word my mother said. We all knew she couldn’t stay in one place any longer than moonlight could. Every time she ran through the garden the warblers and sparrows would follow her. Bees would drink the sweat from her skin and never once sting. My mother laughed and said the honey in our hives would taste especially wild and sweet.

Four-word Lines

Four-Word Lines
May Swenson

Your eyes are just
like bees, and I
feel like a flower.
Their brown power makes
a breeze go over
my skin. When your
lashes ride down and
rise like brown bees’
legs, your prolonged gaze
makes my eyes gauze.
I wish we were
in some shade and
no swarm of other
eyes to know that
I’m a flower breathing
bare, laid open to
your bees’ warm stare.
I’d let you wade
in me and seize
with your eager brown
bees’ power a sweet
glistening at my core.

from New and Selected Things Taking Place

the bee is the fleur-de-lys in the flesh

from “The Fly”
Galway Kinnell

The bee is the fleur-de-lys in the flesh.
She has a tuft of the sun on her back.
She brings sexual love to the narcissus flower.
She sings of fulfillment only
and stings and dies, and
everything she ever touches
is opening, opening.

Bees and Morning Glories

Bees and Morning Glories
by John Ciardi

Morning glories, pale as a mist drying,
fade from the heat of the day, but already
hunchback bees in pirate pants and with peg-leg
hooks have found and are boarding them.

This could do for the sack of the imaginary
fleet. The raiders loot the galleons even as they
one by one vanish and leave still real
only what has been snatched out of the spell.

I’ve never seen bees more purposeful except
when the hive is threatened. They know
the good of it must be grabbed and hauled
before the whole feast wisps off.

They swarm in light and, fast, dive in,
then drone out, slow, their pantaloons heavy
with gold and sunlight. The line of them,
like thin smoke, wafts over the hedge.

And back again to find the fleet gone.
Well, they got this day’s good of it. Off
they cruise to what stays open longer.
Nothing green gives honey. And by now

you’d have to look twice to see more than green
where all those white sails trembled
when the world was misty and open
and the prize was there to be taken.

Henri Cole – Bees


Poured through the bees, the sunlight, like flesh

and spirit, emits a brightness pushing everything

else away except the bees’ vibrating bronze bodies

riding the air as if on strings that flex

and kick back as they circle the hive outside

my window, where they are cheerful and careful

in their work, their audible bee-voices

in solidarity with summer, as it is getting on,

and all the leaves of the forest quiver toward

nothingness on Earth, where we are all fallen

and where we sin and betray in order

to love and where the germinating seeds

of the soul are watered by tears of loneliness,

fear, and emotional revenge.