065.1: Erin Lyndal Martin:: Colony Collapse: Cellular Phone Theory & Colony Collapse: Inevitability Theory & Colony Collapse: The Thing That Gives Me Hope & Colony Collapse: After Hearing We Choose Our Fates 065

When I was a kid it seemed every week there would be a sensational news story—or at least I remember the Story at 11 promo clips—about Africanized killer bees coming up from South America through Central America to California. From the ominous graphics and threatening voice over, this much was obvious: when they came we were goners. They would swarm around us, attack aggressively, and take us and our little dogs too. They never did come. Or maybe they did. If they did come none of the other sixth graders disappeared, although at times I wish they did. This week, we present four poems from Erin Lyndal Martin, poems that investigate another bee problem: not their arrival, but their disappearance. Each poem in the series begins, “You can tell me the bees are dying…” and the speaker’s incredulousness is almost child-like, as in, you can tell me this but I won’t believe you, won’t believe what it means. But the speaker attempts to understand its meaning through her own lens, how the loss of these bees serves as a trope for loss of self, for the loss of friends and loved ones, for the loss of a relationship between mother and daughter, and the like. Through Martin’s meditation on the loss of bees, she begins to tackle the larger conceit of what it means to live—that sometimes we are defined not by arrival or addition, but by negation. I checked Wikipedia; those killer bees came to California—we just didn’t notice. Martin’s poems ask that we notice now, that we not take for granted. Nik De Dominic
A beekeeper will see good results if these methods are employed. That is the way to fight these diseases, but you’ll have to take into account all the relationships that exist in order to proceed in a practical manner.
-Rudolf Steiner

Colony Collapse: Cellular Phone Theory

You can tell me the bees are dying, but where is the list of their names for me to scroll through with my thumbs? Even alive, their bodies are a blur. Dead, their bodies disappear—they used to call this disappearing disease because the bees would just be gone. This I can understand: I call the entry labeled “Jeremy” and he is only a body now. What was he before? I call other entries and get other messages: disconnected. Out of range. Unavailable. This whole time, I can picture certain faces by their phones, waiting not for me. I hold my phone up high to get a better reception. Some people say this is what kills the bees. Is it that simple? It’s not the phones, someone tells me. It’s the towers. The monoliths off of which our voices bounce when we dare to speak to another human being.

Colony Collapse: Inevitability Theory

You can tell me the bees are dying, and soon they will be dead. There is comfort in knowing an end. What was a scattered arc, the black and gold prayer flags between flowers and home, is a straight and quivering arrow back to the source. Home again, home, boneless, not bleeding, just suddenly dead. We are all keeping this kind of vigil: in the x-ray I count my bones and compare them to the translucent sheet in the library’s anatomy textbook. Yet, I stare and can’t make it look like me. Where is the ear in which my lover nestles his tongue, the belly button I’ve grown to love? I put my tongue in my lover’s mouth. I do not know how this will turn out.

Colony Collapse: The Thing That Gives Me Hope

You can tell me the bees are dying. Once, there was a time, mother, I was wearing black. My eyes were rebellious and my hair was bright as snakeberries. You in your blue robe and flowered slippers holding a chipped coffee cup. There was an island of soil in our yard, it ran
between the white birches, and you could name all that grew there. It was the coneflowers the bees liked the best, purple and blue and white. Across the plants, you would tell me what you saw, how one was so laden with pollen it looked like a bag lady waiting for a bus there
on the white petal that was now some city sidewalk. I was smiling. I was touching the flowers, and the bees were dancing from here to there, and it was a pattern that only they understood, and we were a pattern that only we understood. You smiled, and I thought how I had your smile. It was then I knew a little more what this world was about: so lonely, a body, so lonely, the skin, and our world: I grew inside my mother like a ficus, now live half a continent away and find myself having so little to say to her. But the world comes in between us, that’s what it does, but we watched the same hailstorm when she came to Alabama. We squeezed onto the worn white-painted steps of my shabby apartment, and now every hailstorm is that one, and every summer bee is landing on the violet flower next to you.

Colony Collapse: After Hearing We Choose Our Fates

You can tell me the bees are dying, but who has told them? The first, long ago, whispering to one, you’re dying, you’re dying, you will just be gone. Then an echo of bodies. There must have been a crush, a snap, a smack, some kind of sound. There must have been matter first flattened into silhouette. Imagine this instead:

silence, suddenness,
a jump-cut. The vast plane of ignorance in which the remaining bees work and work. From outside the hive you wonder if they have brought this on themselves. Think to earlier pests: do we choose the mites that lodge in our own throats? In this way, I mean something else. I am thinking of Sue waking up near 4 AM and sitting by her kerosene heater, typing away. What she couldn’t wait to tell us all is that she needed firewood and that decided it was up to her to cut it down though she was scared of not only the axes but the sheer height of all the trees. We hadn’t expected her to buy a chainsaw, and she hadn’t expected to love it. That was what she wrote to all of us, that night. This voice overhead, the one buzzing like bad neon, tells us we make our own destiny. I suppose the chainsaw on the old tree was Sue’s way of saying she wanted, two years later, to be murdered and left in her cabin for her body to burn so badly that she was mistaken for ashes of a stray dog. If only she had said that instead of I love to conquer my fear. Then I might finally understand.