Queen Bee

Queen Bee
—for Carol Ann Duffy and Kay Ryan

I. Spring
II. Stings
II. Arrival of the Bee Box
IV. The Bee Meeting


“I have a self
to recover—a queen”
—Sylvia Plath,
“Stings,” Ariel

Spring—has sprung
The hive survived—gladiolas
Lean in on me—instead of the
Petulant picket-fence—of tombstones
Lining my backyard—from the
Mausoleum—the Waxhouse
The arrival of the Bee Box—is now

Wintering is over—an easy time
Nothing doing—only whirring
Here’s my—honey machine
It works—without thinking
I’ve got honey—six jars of it
Six cat’s eyes—in the wine cellar
A mile-long—China blue teacup

The bees—are all women
Maids of the—royal lady
Cate Blanchett—Queen Elizabeth
They’ve got rid—of all the men
The boors—blunt clumsy dolts
Sir So-and-so’s—crummy grin
All the vain—Yorkshire Rippers

Wintering in the dark—widowing
After nearly getting—strangled to death
The Rabbit Killer’s—rancid jam
All the spoiled—Mytholmroyd meat
All that appalling—male asininity
Possession—wanting to own me
My ex-husband—hoity-toity hunchback


“closets unlocked, locked
questions unasked, asked”
—Adrienne Rich,
The School Among the Ruins

Now there’s time—again to breathe
To make up for—the honey I’ve taken
The pale snow of winter—receding fast
Here in this cradle—of English walnut
The bees knitting—entering another year
Winter is for women—hibernating from love
My body is a light bulb—suddenly turned on

Bee-fingered—I fondle the combs
Thousands of—clean cells around me
Eight combs—of yellow syrupy cups
The hive itself—pink-flowered shiny
Blue china teacup—enameled with tears
Bee-cells—older than fossils of shells
Older than teak—ancient mahogany

Is the queen dead—is she sleeping
Where has she been—lionized leonine
Her wings of glass—does she still exist
Is she old—wings torn and tattered
Smooth svelte skin—rubbed of its plush
Is she poor and bare—unqueenly even
Shameful—there she is in the mirror!!!

Sedate winged—miraculous woman
Hardly the haughty—Dido Merwin
Nor Anne Stevenson—nor Middlebrook
Not Ted Hughes’—industrious busybody
Fingers-in-every-pie—& every bio byline
His micro-managing—heavy-handed
Pushy gauche—bee keeper Sister

The Arrival of the Bee Box

“What shall I love—
unless it be the Enigma?”
—Giorgio de Chirico

I heard it—through the grapevine
My strangeness—would be evaporate
Dew and piquant pearls—would ooze
Through my skin—my body warming-up
In the spring—smooth white caps
The moon scouring—the sea below
For sunken treasure—creaming waves

I feel words—tugging at me again
Lounging in this—vast undertow beneath
The world of lies—I have a self to recover
I’m a fairytale queen—like Snow White
Surrounded by—little Rumpelstiltskins
Seven little dwarf muses—each dwarf
A poetic function—a prince in disguise

And then—the arrival of the bee box
I ordered it—a Pandora’s Box too
Heavy to lift—small as a midget’s coffin
A Boss Cupid time bomb—ticking away
Full of African masks—Picasso’s
Les Demoiselles d'Avignon—de Chirico’s
Ariadne Awake—The Disquieting Muses

Listen to them—a box of maniacs
Busy swarming—voodoo African bees
Like a Roman mob—plebeian revolt
Black on black—black and blue
I’m the owner now—will they forgive me
When I undo the lock—standing back
Turning into an Elm—laburnum of love

I wonder—how hungry they are
They’ll probably—ignore me at first
Sitting here on—the lush verandah
Dazed by magnolia—honey-suckles
Bougainvillea vines—slithering
Up around my ankles—tomorrow
I’m queen bee—bee box temporary

The Bee Meeting

“It’s violent”
—Sylvia Plath,
“Stopped Dead,” Ariel

Who are all these—creepy people
Rector of York—Poet Laureate Hughes
The Queen of Dish—his snotty sister
Their friends—like Dido Dildo Merwin
Anne Stevenson—and the Critics
The literary agents—of the oily Estate
Those who buried—Ariel in the oven

Their scrawny craning—chicken necks
Blue rinse grand dames—six feet under
Everybody nodding—so knowingly
Their expensive face lifts—slowly sagging
Like blooming hawthorne—they stink
Etherized long ago—the old Suicide Cult
Tacky Closet Lit—their preferred genre

They’re surprised—surely I’m a ghost
Surely they got rid of me—in Yeats’ oven
Ted so neat & tidy—queering my Ariel ms
Making mince-meat pie—of my TNT book
Fifty years later—finally the real Queen
Uncensored, unabridged—out of the closet
Curtain of wax pulled back—a bridal flight

Night of the Living Dead—Disquieting Muse
All the hysterical men—suicide queens
The butcher, the baker—the undertaker
The postman, the critics—book reviewers
Their gullible snouts—full of male Snarkey
Enraged even now—their failed skullduggery
Ariel was more clever—than they thought

They dreamed of murder—unfinished business
The curse of copyright—in their greedy fist
Sucking up every nickel—of my queenly royalties
Most of them dead now—smarmy greedy grins
Flinching when they saw me—magician’s girl
Taking off my disguise—releasing the swarm
The breakout—of a thousand queens

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