by Beth Copeland
"Almost every year, somewhere in the Sandhills of North Carolina, a few lucky beekeepers strike blue gold." Chick Jacobs, Fayetteville Observer
The year my father died, beekeepers found blue
honey in their hives. No one knows how it turns
blue or why it only happens here. Some think
bees feed on bruised huckleberries, scuppernongs
or kudzu flowers. Living too far inland,
my father never found azure-hued honey
in the hives he kept for forty-five years.
When I visited him in the nursing home,
I talked about blue honey, and his blue eyes
stared into mine, unblinking. I wondered what
he was thinking, but he could no longer speak,
living in a blur of lost memory and sleep,
so I spoke of bees, of watching him don
a veiled hat, covering his hands with gloves
like falconers wear, bellowing bees from hives
with smoke so he could pull combs and clover
honey from inside, and of pouring sourwood
honey into old Mason jars in slow motion
like the lengthening light of a summer day
when the sky was delphinium blue, so blue
it could be music, and is: the blues, the blue
shadow that followed me through the doorway
into the mnemonic buzzing of bees when
I was thirteen, crying behind the pear tree
because I wasn't popular enough to be
the May Queen. This is what I choose to keep
against forgetting: "You'll always be my queen,"
he said, bending to kiss me on the forehead.
I carry that moment like a bee preserved
in amber, hanging on a gold chain
above my heart to ward off wintering broods
and dark swarms, a queen without a country
or hive, standing in slanted light as bees droned
around my head, weaving a crown of wings
and buzzing with sweetness, without stings.
Beth Copeland's books include Transcendental Telemarketer (BlazeVOX books) and Traveling through Glass (Bright Hill Press).