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Apiology, with Stigma

Stigma, n. (in flowers) the female part of the pistil

that receives pollen during pollination

For Melissa W.

There is no real love in the apiary.

Hive mentality: 1. Fatten until you reign

your country on a throne of propolis.

2. Copulate until you explode

with larval broods. Honey makes me sick,

and so does the Queen Bee. Even

in sleep, I see the arrows point at drones

stuck to the ceiling, sparkling spastically

like the sequins on a girl’s yellow prom

dress. Some girls pray to be Queen.

They think: wouldn’t it be terrific, to be

wanted like that. Wouldn’t it be terrific,

to be stroked and adored, to lose your virginity

in the glorious aftermath of royal jelly.

Wouldn’t it be terrific to roost, rest, be the envy

and the mother of all. But one girl turns

the other way. At lunch she eats green tea mochi

on the edge of the field, scouts unpopulated

places—a lemon tree, a barberry bush.

Dreading assemblies and cafeterias, she ducks

under the library’s front steps, smuggling

field guides or National Geographics

with covers of jewel beetles and capybaras,

counting the minutes until recess is over

and biology begins. The price of sincerity:

when the honeybee shucks the anthers

from the camellia, an anthem begins.

It’s a slow soprano. An anathema. It screams

from deep inside its ribs. It’s a blues,

an aria, an index of heartbreaks. It may break

a thousand mirrors before the pollen descends,

ashes over caldera. Split gorge. Fever. Finally,

the bee pollinates the stigma. The girl curse

sounds like that—a drone of flaws announcing

each maladaptive limb, freckle, admittance

of shame. How to battle this monster?

It is known that Japanese honeybees grew

immune to the vicious Asian giant hornet

by laying a trap: 1. Lure him into the threshold

of an open hive. 2. Besiege him—surround

the saboteur with a wall of impenetrable

bodies. 3. Vibrate until the temperature

reaches 115°F. 4. He will die from the heat

and carbon dioxide. His husk will break,

his heft will plummet. I don’t teach my girls

to brave the violence of sun, sons, or stings.

When resources run out, don’t sit there and behave.

Abandon hive. If the hornet breaks the heat net,

save yourself. Abandon yen. Abandon majesty.

Spit the light out because it sears you so.

from Mad Honey SymposiumFind more by Sally Wen Mao at the library

Copyright © 2014 Sally Wen Mao
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Alice James Books.

Published in Poems Sally Wen Mao

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.