Tuesday, August 2, 2011
The Wild Bees by John Griffin
A death wind swished across your open book
and dusted from its dusty leaves and colophon
the spores that gather in spines and gutters,
that swarm when agitated like motes in sunlight
like mites metamorphosing into seething bees
that set the silence humming, throbbing.
What comes alive in the shimmering shafts,
dancing and lemniscating, constructs infinity
inside a geometry of longing and there too
within its tessellations order hypnotises
disorder and draws out the unctuous drones
till they abandon their myrmidonian binging.
Veined wings made of water lift water’s weight
and flap water’s freight improbably into flight
where it hovers now before the portals of pollen
and fans antigens, powder-down and dander
with such a busy buzz the glassine scales intensify
the air, evaporate the dew and vaporize your tears.
The hive in the eaves was built out of absence,
or rather vacancy was its invitation — the colony knew
and soon occupied the silence with circadian rhythms
and you let them even welcoming the palpitations
they brought to things as a sign of life's affirmation,
and risk should their styli be more apt to sting you.
These insects could raise you out of yourself
and air-condition that claustrophobic infirmary
where sickness had you jailed — Delphic bees
pollinating your mind’s imponderables
with thoughts of correlatives beyond itself —
they could even alchemise your tears to gold:
Each swag has a scarab that the bees bear back
to their Omphalos — the Greeks already knew
and named your girls and the Egyptians before them
put onyx amulets in the woven skeps of dreams
so that the soul might harvest its cosmic course
towards that place where Ra drops honey from the sun.
Published with the permission of John Griffin
This week's editor: Zireaux
Poets are not people. And a good poem abandons all biography. I know almost nothing about John Griffin, whether he's attended schools, programs, workshops, written chapbooks or crap-books, published in lit-mags or shit-rags, or whether he's won any awards (I do hope he hasn't; my estimation of him might diminish).
But I know this poem. I know its instrument, its styli, if you will. I know that what we have here is a genuine work of art -- heroic, honey-tender, precisely beautiful -- created by a genuine poet.
We can talk about the remarkable combination of form and flow in "The Wild Bees," the six stanzas, six sentences, the six-sided honeycomb cell; the fluid phrasing -- "draw out the unctuous drones," "powder-down and dander," "pollinate...the imponderables.'
We can talk about the images, the conceit, the subject matter; how the bees, after all, as teardrops-come-to-life, flapping "water's freight improbably into flight" (lovely stuff, so very bee-like and palpable), are but messengers, workers, drones in the creation of Griffin's poetic unguent. Or how "The Wild Bees" is really a kind of love poem, an offering of soma or salve, a nectar meant to soothe the pain of a writer (a writer-goddess in this case) to whom, or perhaps with whom, the poet is responding.
Rather, what we must talk about -- even more than the sweet affection -- is what the poem demands of us: Not the meaning so much, but the language. Now let me speak softly here, a whisper, lest our real poets, quietly toiling away at beauties in the background, be distracted from their craft:
The poet must have faith in the design of language. In the structure, the honeycomb, the tessellation. "The geometry of longing." In vocabulary. Yes, vocabulary.
From spores to motes, mites, bees, scarabs, from death to golden tears and honey sun (bees were once thought to spring, like maggots, from the dead), from colophon to "seething bees" and "shimmering shafts" -- beauty is in the careful, coordinated, construction of words out of the swarm. And sure, it can be dangerous to "lemniscate" without a permit -- Griffin is no novice (he's waggle-dancing with his bees!) -- but don't be afraid to mingle with myrmidons, or let the bees sting your lips.
And you (exclamatory whisper!), O peddlers of minimalism, hucksters of haiku, I request you keep your smokey spiritualism away from the hive. Can you not hear the growing clamor of the i-Clones, the Fad-Pads, the X-Cubes and MeTubes, the Factor Xs, the Super 3-D Cinema-Plexes? Why should we submit to the blog-fog, the vapors of vacancy (stay calm, my voice!), when language can reach -- or better, ride, fly, however improbably, like Dante's Beatrice (Dante being the CGI animator of his day), to the place where Ra drops honey from the sun, on the powerful, jewel-encrusted Griffin-wings of language?
For more information about former Tuesday Poet John Griffin (who lives in Ireland, by the way), visit his website.
You'll find information about Zireaux, as well as his latest verse and commentary, at www.ImmortalMuse.com.
We do hope you'll take some time to enjoy the other Tuesday Poem posts this week, listed in the right-hand sidebar.