A Handful of Bees – 2008

Carnegie Mellon Classic Contemporary (reprint)


Nothing can disturb you now—
your sleep is the sleep
of a basin of water
where a woman
has washed her face.

This is the hour
of churchyard haze,
the pale pink sun
around heads of saints.
It must be their slow light
that carries here
to the grassfields, the cornfields,
the hand-carved wheat.

If only I could wake you!
The steam in barns has started to rise,
and there behind the wooden shed—
the last piece of moon
in an empty pail.


The priest taught us
that blessing oneself
shouldn’t be like shooing flies:

There is a pause
at the temple of your head,

you connect one shoulder
to the other with a thread,

your wrist should be sincere
as if conducting your body
in song.


On long car trips
it’s okay

to pray while driving,
your lips parted,

hands resting
on the steering wheel.

Soon, however,
you’re falling asleep.

The rosary breaks
and spills into trees.


Feeling guilty
for asking too many favors,

I disguise myself
by praying with my mother’s accent.

Maybe for her
salvation will be gentle—

dawn pausing to empty
birds from a gray sack.

A Handful of Bees

By chance, in mirrors, I’ve noticed that when I eat,
it’s often with a facial expression
of disbelief.

Isn’t the food mine?
Why do I hurry?
Will I be divorced again?

When my mother eats,
it’s often with a facial expression
of disbelief.

Isn’t the food hers?
Why does she hurry?
Is Father dying again?

Why does she tighten her left hand
into a fist?
It gets tighter all the time.

Will the fist become mine?
What does it know?
What’s there that can’t be released?