Nickole Brown is the author of Sister, first published in 2007 with a new edition reissued by Sibling Rivalry Press in 2018. Her second book, Fanny Says, came out from BOA Editions and won the Weatherford Award for Appalachian Poetry in 2015. The audiobook of that collection became available in 2017. She is the Editor for the Marie Alexander Poetry Series and has taught at the Sewanee School of Letters MFA Program, the Great Smokies Writing Program at the University of North Carolina at Ashville, and the Hindman Settlement School. She lives with her wife, poet Jessica Jacobs, in Asheville, NC, where she volunteers at four different animal sanctuaries. Currently, she's at work on a bestiary of sorts about these animals, but it won't consist of the kind of pastorals that always made her (and most of the working-class folks she knows) feel shut out of nature and the writing about it. These poems speak in a queer, Southern-trash-talking kind of way about nature: beautiful, damaged, dangerous, and in desperate need of saving. A chapbook of these poems called To Those Who Were Our First Gods recently won the 2018 Rattle Chapbook Prize. Learn more at Nickole's website.
What the Bees Taught Me
By Nickole BrownAdded: Monday, February 11, 2019 / Previously in "Michigan Quarterly Review." Used with permission.
When I press my face to the painted box,
the sound is
not buzzing, is not
a mob of wings. No, it’s lower, deeper,
like Pop Rocks when the cheap carbonated
unchewed down my throat
or like television
at midnight back when stations flicked on
the national anthem
after the blue light of story
the home of the brave
it all crackled into a frenzy of
black and white.
With my child hand
to the screen, I never could tell if it was static
I felt or static I could hear, which is and is not
Mesmerized, I would turn the volume
off, pet the invisible fur frantic on the glass
wondering if it was God growling at me.
So too these homemade apiaries— the hive
within makes something more
or if it is just sound
it is sound tasted or taste I can feel,
an electric musk entering my skin,
a charge saying collapse is only a word for
civilization that dies
Listen as Nickole Brown reads "What the Bees Taught Me."