J. Allyn Rosser

Beeline Eclogue

I felt it falter onto my bare foot,
and flicked without swatting,
so the bee did not attack.
Nor did it lift into the August air
and head directly for greater comfort
or congeniality but, unfazed, pressed on
over clumps of ridgy crabgrass blade
and browning clover blossom.
I was reading a book not good enough
to go back to in the presence of so felt
a need to move, to achieve arrival.
When had I last read or heard words
that could rival this intensity of purpose?
The bee was determined to get somewhere
very particular, very very particular
and would not stop, driving its body
onward at a steady clip, undeterred
by roadblocks I set up at intervals:
a rock, a white down-feather,
my hand, a rare, unspoiled
white clover blossom (at which
it aimed a reflexive, exploratory swipe
before pushing it aside), a broken
potato chip which it scrabbled over
like a manhole cover in the desert,
and finally a quarter from my pocket.
I’d hoped the shininess might give some pause,
if not the sunheated eagle texture.
It made me feel strangely lonely,
that indeflectable bobbling gait
– its completeness of intent –
dismissing me without fear or interest.
This must be how it feels when prayers
stop coming. I wasn’t going to hurt it,
but couldn’t resist one nudge with my pen
to see if it could fly. It didn’t lift a wing.
The bee, however, seemed undamaged,
maybe just ageing, aware it was about to die.
So why the haste, why consciously
squander the last drops of life-force
on this exhausting trek that might end
prematurely, far from anywhere?
Why not seek a shady spot, of which
there were plenty nearby, sip nectar
one last time from small, exquisite blooms?
I tried to think what I would do, if I knew.
If I had mobility and a clear mind, and if I knew.
What was it hoping to communicate?
To warn the others of a threat
to the hive, or to bees in general, a pesticide?
This was not a running from. A destination
was in mind where others of its kind
would buzz up close to hear the thing
this bee was desperate to convey, swarm near
to witness the whisper of its final day,
the meticulous folding of its last legs,
the fading of the sunlight in its complex eye.
I watched it ply its body like the shell
of a spent bullet through the vast pelouse,
and wondered what on earth I’d be impelled to tell,
and whom I’d choose as listeners,
if I could choose.

J. Allyn Rosser's most recent collection of poems is Foiled Again. She has received awards and fellowships from the Guggenhein Foundation, the Poetry Foundation, the Lannan Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Ohio Arts Council. She currently teaches in the creative writing program at Ohio University, where she edits New Ohio Review.