No. 4 Presto in C major (“The Bee’s Wedding”)
[Mendelssohn, Lieder ohne Worte, Book 6, Op. 67]
“…What a waste! To watch them spoil these
Cobweb-fine Queen-Anne’s-lace doilies—
This dandelion wine served up
In gilded lilies and buttercups—
Just look, a saffron candlepip
At every place setting—rose hips
Fringing that molasses wedding cake
Imagine—all this, set in front
Of beetles. Beetles! Born in dung.
Sweetie, I’ve tried to hold my tongue,
But if I bluebottle this up much longer,
I swear I’m going to stick my stinger
In that circadian wedding-singer.
It’s Hymenopteran we speak
In any case—trust me, it’s Greek
To the lower Order she’s married into,
The earthy folk she’s henceforth kin to.
Our lovely Princess Beeatrice,
Bride to a dung beetle. That is
Their family’s full name? Am I wrong?
Not that anyone’s pooh-poohing dung—
Several respectable insect species
Make three square meals of feces.
I’ve got black flies for best friends. Two,
In fact. But when you’re grand-niece to
Her Majesty the Queen Beeyoncé?
Honey, you need to pick a fly fiance.
Not that love is honey-minded,
But bees we be, and in this climate,
Colonies dying by the dozen,
Royalty should wed a cousin.
My own dear son (he lives alone)
Will take up work soon as a drone
At this rate, rubbing up the orchids
So someone else’s Queen has more kids.
What can they know, these pincered, black—
Though I’ll concede a beetle’s back,
In a certain light, at certain times,
Has iridescence of a kind,
Like puddled oil. It’s not that I
Can’t see what she sees, if I try
To utterly forget my bee-ness
And focus only on his…. Mean as
This sounds, a beetle can’t survive
Even a weekend in the hive.
It’s she who’ll have to learn to sit
All day atop a mound of…. It’s
No fitting throne for someone raised
On dew fondue and sweet pea sorbet.
And what their kid will look like! An
Unnatural half-breed, like those ants
With wings, like something from a nightmare.
Although, from what I hear, she might bear
Bumblebees, which wouldn’t be
So bad, but still won’t be a bee.
What with our colonies collapsing,
Our leases on the seasons lapsing,
African killer bees arriving
In swarms, and building hivels, thriving
In fields our forebees pollenated—
This Queendom simply isn’t fated
Forever to honefy the ashes
A callow lily, a jasmine stashes
In each unsweet ungolden heart.
How do the beetles think this starts?
The spring, I mean. Do they think it coils
Larval in the frozen soil
And never guess we play a part?
We’ll die out, with our thankless art,
In a wing-fringed gravel no one weeps for
Save for a censer-swinging beekeeper,
Blessing, papal, our unpeopling.
… I wonder, does she have a sibling?”
Amit Majmudar‘s new poetry collection, Dothead, is forthcoming from Alfred A. Knopf in March 2016.