Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Tuesday Poem: The Poet's Wife and the Bee

The poet’s wife stands under the bee tree her head slung back, her face
sweet with the spill of sound, I swear she sways. I fear these bees will be
drawn from the yellow wattle to the glow of this exceptional face, for glow
it surely does like something buttery, or by the dense hair, airy with its own
brightness. She stands absorbed and dangerous. I want to call ‘beware’, but
who am I? Hanging out the washing on my side of the fence, my concerns
trivial. What do I know of bees? Around me: the sussuration of wet sheets,
the creak of a nylon line. All at once she spins on her heels, her face snapped
open, her long feet hard on the hard earth. Crossing the yard. I am relieved.
I am

disappointed. I hang a shirt carefully from its shoulders. Two blue pegs. I see
the fine fray of cotton on the collar.  And then I hear it: the thinnest of bee
sounds crossing the yard like an electrical wire carrying its small load, its
sweet load, its awful load. I suspect the hair, that careless toss of silverishness,
lighter now, fresh with current. But surely she’d hear it, feel it, surely she’d
scream? And I - at the cry - would drop everything, struggle to climb the fence,
run to swat the hair, call ‘calm!’ I would reach into those flaring roots,
and pinch out the treacherous bee, all sticky air and lightness, crush it under
my boots. And the poet's wife, in all her honey, all her majesty, all  her brightness,
would light

upon me. She’s gone inside without incident. I am paused. Listening, but
there is nothing to hear. I imagine her communing with the bee, ‘tea?’ ‘honey?’
I hear it now. I hear it. A single hum from deep within the house. Spilled from the tree
– one long lean note, let loose and carried in the dense of her hair, let loose in there.
I hear it. No. Too long, too deep -- the bee is not a bee at all. The tongue vibrating.
Spit on the piano keys. Her finger running to catch it – which one? this one? this? pressing 
and pressing, until there! The hum in the wet mouth, carried in the wet mouth, is
pressed into ivory. A after middle C, she tells me later, leaning on the fence. It spills
from the lit windows of the poet’s house, from the lit fingers of the poet’s wife. It passes
me by. Gathers in the wattle tree.

                                                                                      Mary McCallum

[*Note - final stanza revised at 8.29 am after first posting.]

Is this a prose poem? It's solid enough to be one - that or a rugby prop. There are a few in Tuesday Poem this week: Sarah Jane Barnett is promising one this week,  and Janis Freegard has posted one by Gertrude Stein ... and there could be more. To go to Tuesday Poem for more poems click on the quill in the sidebar or here. (The quill's more fun.) 

Thanks to Catherine for being the Poet's Wife and telling the story.


maggie@at-the-bay.com said...

Goodness Mary - where does all this gorgeous stuff come from amazing - quite, quite lovely and so visual and sensual and striking. Clever woman - where do you find the time and inspiration.

Penelope said...

With bees in our garden and a poet in the one next door, I love this, whatever you decide it is — that honeyed electrical strand humming through it, the hair, the energy. Thanks, Mary.

Helen Lowe said...

Intriguing stream-of-consciousness leaping to fantastic cause and effect ... is it poetry, is it prose ... who decides ... the poet, the reader? But having read this, of poetry, of bees, of women with silver hair and sunflower faces, a book recommendation springs unbidden to my lips: Catherynne M Valente's "Palimpsest". You may/may not "like" but I think you may be intrigued, in the same spirit that your Tuesday Poem also intrigues ...

Mary McCallum said...

Thanks gals - appreciate your reading about the poet's wife and commenting... amazing Penelope you have both the poet and the bees...Maggie you were at the lunch when Catherine told me the story - I couldn't get it out of my head... and Helen, Palimpsest eh? I am already intrigued...

Kathleen Jones said...

I think it's amazing Mary. Not sure I understand it all - need to read again a few times, there's so much in there. It has a sub-text of intense emotion and a sense of foreboding! I loved the phrase 'the sussuration of wet sheets'.