I live in New York City, working on poems and paintings. The following is from my fifth poetry collection, to one who bends my time, recently published by Deerbrook Editions.
The Dance Language of Bees
The foraging bee, writes Karl von Frisch, begins to perform a kind of "round dance”…
Our summer home had a chimney.
It buzzed and swarmed, smelled of honey.
She starts whirling around, constantly changing direction, turning now right, now left…in quick succession, describing one or two circles in each direction…
I slept in a room with a hearth.
How nice! A child and a chimney.
…those sitting next to the dancer start tripping after her, with outstretched feelers… the dancer herself, in her mad wheeling movements, appears to carry behind her a perpetual comet’s tail of bees.
The oldest, exhausted worker-bees
dropped down through the flue.
Logy, dun-colored, dying, they crawled
from the hearth onto the rug
where my bare feet often found them.
During the thirties, Frisch, unable to prove pure Aryan ancestry, was classified as a mischling, one-sixth Jewish. He came under further suspicion for continuing to hire assistants, even some women, with still higher proportions of Semitic blood …
It was my mother who pulled the stinger from my foot,
my mother who mixed a soothing paste of baking soda,
my mother I overheard to say how uncanny it was
that the bees in my room never stung me!
Accused of practicing “Jewish Science,” he was forced to retire from the Munich Institute of Zoology.
Every Autumn, the Bee-Man scrubbed inside our chimney,
removed the wax and honey.
After the war, the bomb-ravaged Institute was rebuilt and Frisch was reinstated. He continued his research into his eighties. His account of “the dancing bees,” greeted at first with derision, has been widely accepted.
Every Spring, the swarm returned
as memory returns to the house,
the chimney, the swarm, and the stings.
Frisch said honey bees can always find a food source with the help of their dance, even if they must detour around an intervening mountain.
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