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Viscous Elixir

By By Katrina Roberts

Honeycomb and bee illustration
Illustration by Trevor Ross

Humming, a swarm begins to ball, ideas like drones seeking a viable queen,
one at last sufficiently demure (think roots: mature, ripe; the grave in gravity)
to warrant notice and harbor from a storm's centrifugal whirl. The iconic
zagging bolt cracking a brainpan's dishwater plate. July's roses, centripetally-
whorled petals obscuring inevitable thorns (an inner critic's scorn); their waft.
Parched tablelands. And what ignites whispering stalks near a frayed hem of
sun-scorched dooryard. Outstretched arms of T-leg clothesline poles make
approaching men, if you squint. Trunks of cottonwood and willow stand stilly
to populate this midsummer frieze. See what I'm doing? A teased mind
licks many tongues into rabbit holes. Why not believe there's a wilderness
of smoldering stars nesting within your chest? A branching ribcage houses
your screech owl heart. Why not believe its keening might be contained?
Some don't look to nature's phenomena for metaphor, but why not? Later,
unedited rain will fall in simple lines to wash the parchment scroll clean.

When I promised there'd be bees in this poem, I meant: in this heat, what
kind of man strives to break records for wearing the heaviest coat (240 lbs.)
of them, millions of wings mantling his torso, climbing thighs, scaling cheeks
toward eyes, lids fluttering, the fragile wick of him a ghostly filament set
to collapse? Around his body, temperatures reached 140 degrees. I watched
charcoal lashes of legs, feet alight on his lips, the way he sipped air; then lifting
it slowly to his jewel-encrusted face, his cigarette, the patient trick of his drag.
Elsewhere, the word solace can drop a cool garment of lace from within itself
to dapple plum scars across the arm of a young girl. She sits with the small wren
of her hand calm between gentle jaws of a soft-mouthed hound, his velvet flews
and jowls sagging aside to reveal iceberg canines. See, there's a crack in this
poem I've seamed in Pangaeaic style, stapling ceramic shards, shaping liquid
language into gold-veined tributaries, kintsugi, through which sinuous pink fish
might suture past with future, despite fraught origins. Why not believe a voice

feels fondness for the throat through which it rises? The hose embraces water
spewing like diamonds, bathed by its passage, an unexpected grace I've worn,
too, in being a forlorn portal into a complicated world. Children I hug will fly off
soon. Why not believe bees could lift the man out of himself? That he'd walk from
the netted castle of their fever, shrug off the seething robe he'd fashioned, bits of
remnant stingers in his folds-clarified, tempered. He shook wrists, parted lips to
let a comet-trail of smoke escape, strode alone into the new century, a glowing match
of secret knowledge searing our memories. Why not follow? How did he survive
over two thousand stings? Endure their tickle and thrum? When I promised bees,
I thought of their tricky industry; I thought of my allergic girl, her sweet voice, the
roulette spin of each day, of choice. Why not marry the man's devotion to stillness,
to magic choreographed within a kingdom of risk? Why not let communion be buzz-
word, motto? I thought of their innate, en masse waggle dance; what's made
without praise nor waste: such viscous elixir, the clover-rich haunt of its taste.

By Katrina Roberts, Mina Schwabacher Professor of English/Creative Writing and Humanities. Her poetry collections include Underdog (University of Washington Press, 2011), Friendly Fire (Lost Horse Press, 2008), The Quick (University of Washington Press, 2005) and How Late Desire Looks (Gibbs Smith, 1997). She also edited Because You Asked: A Book of Answers on the Art and Craft of the Writing Life (Lost Horse Press, 2015), curated from Whitman's Visiting Writers Reading Series.

Published on Oct 5, 2017
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