American Life in Poetry: Column 635

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BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

The University of Minnesota Press has published a wonderful new collection of bee poems, If Bees Are Few, which may in some small way help the bees and will certainly offer some honey to poetry lovers. Here’s just one poem, by Heid Erdrich, who lives in Minnesota. Her most recent book is Cell Traffic: New and Selected Poems from the University of Arizona Press.

Stung

She couldn’t help but sting my finger,
clinging a moment before I flung her
to the ground. Her gold is true, not the trick
evening light plays on my roses.
She curls into herself, stinger twitching,
gilt wings folded. Her whole life just a few weeks,
and my pain subsided in a moment.
In the cold, she hardly had her wits to buzz.
No warning from either of us:
she sleeping in the richness of those petals,
then the hand, my hand, cupping the bloom
in devastating force, crushing the petals for the scent.
And she mortally threatened, wholly unaware
that I do this daily, alone with the gold last light,
in what seems to me an act of love.


We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2016 by Heid Erdrich, “Stung,” from If Bees Are Few: A Hive of Bee Poems (Univ. of Minnesota Pr., James P. Lenfesty, Ed., 2016). Poem reprinted by permission of Heid Erdrich and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2017 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.

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