Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

The Bees of Deir Kifa

Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

The Bees of Deir Kifa

Article excerpt

The sun going down is lost in the gorge to the south,

lost in the rows of olive trees, light in the webs of their limbs.

This is the time when the thousands and thousands come home.

It is not the time for the keeper's veil and gloves,

not the time for stoking the smoker with pine needles.

It would be better to do that at midday, under a hot sun,

when the precincts are quieter; it would be better to disturb

few rather than many. At noon, the hives are like villages,

gates opened toward the sun, or like small countries

carved from empires to keep the peace, each with its habits

some ruled better by better queens, some frantic and uncertain,

some with drifting populations, others busy with robbing,

and even the wasps and hornets, the fierce invaders who have settled

among the natives, are involved in the ancient trades.

But now with the sun gone, the blue summer twilight

tinged with thyme and the silver underside of olive leaves

calm in the furrowed groves, darkening the white chunks

of limestone exposed in the tillage, the keeper in his vestments

squeezes the bellows of the smoker, blows a thin blue stream

into an entrance, loosens the top, like a box lid, and delivers more. …

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