Skip to Content

What the Bees Taught Me

By Nickole Brown

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,
             but small,

like Pop Rocks             when the cheap carbonated
                           candy  leapt 
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
              right before

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
             the same.

                          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
            than sound, 
                         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

              with them.



Listen as Nickole Brown reads "What the Bees Taught Me."

Added: Monday, February 11, 2019  /  Previously in "Michigan Quarterly Review." Used with permission.
Nickole Brown
Photo by Joli Livaudais.

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.

Other poems by this author