by Bethany Bowman

Your wife’s a bumblebee
           in the best sense, constant.

She laughs like a home
           and gardens columnist,

one concerned with gadgets,
           the mundane: miniature

windmills spinning
           for moles half blind.

Humanely, they’ll eliminate
           backyard pests

and past loves,
           through vibration

send hangers-on running.
           And you can’t blame a man

for craving rhubarb pie
           over poems that burrow

deeper into earth each winter,
           sometimes motionless

though never dormant
           gnawing worms, drying out

roots and hoping
           beyond reason

they’re still binary, complex
           as this drunken dog star,

buzzing constellation
           you once called beautiful.

by Bethany Bowman

For his coronation, Napoleon Bonaparte rejected
fleur-de-lis, token of French sovereigns.  To symbolize
the power and prestige of his empire, something older
would work, a jewel of greater antiquity: Bees.

The Sun King may have scorned the treasures of Childeric,
Merovingian monarch cadaverous in 482, tomb forgotten
until excavation 1200 years later—its gold fibula, bull’s head,
cloisonné, crystal ball, but the slight Corsican, known to
laugh inappropriately, pinch cheeks in salons rather than
make small talk, would take the remains of a horse harness
studded with 300 gold
fleurons as his emblem.

Bees in his coat of arms, embroidered
onto his robes, curtains, even his wife’s satin slippers.
Bees of immortality, resurrection, linking
au courant with ancient history.

My experience with bees hasn’t been so empyrean.
But in 1985, a downed weeping willow on my friend’s dairy
farm became a fort worthy of a Bessie Smith song,
even, perhaps, of Corporal Violet himself.

We were a moth-eaten army, uniforms of half-shirts,
bicycle shorts, jellies caked in mud, cow manure.
We followed our barefoot leader from trunk to crown,
would have burned the garrison ourselves had invaders
ventured to take our city.

By the end of summer we were forced to retreat.
The hive had swelled; bees didn’t care for our trade
agreements.  My mother pulled a dozen stingers from
my head; my friend took an even harsher beating.

After Drumsticks my friend stopped crying.
He ran out back to play with his sister;
everyone wished I’d follow suit.  Bees.

Just one winter has passed; hardly enough time to process
this loss.  Still, a cold one on rations and rags,
is sometimes enough to create cataclysm—
banish insecure bullies to an island in the Mediterranean,
make room for these recollections, however raw.  Like
crystallized honey, may they be preserved for a century.


Bethany Bowman’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in
The Comstock Review, Art House America, Ascent, The Cresset,
The Tishman Review, and Rock & Sling.  A native of New York’s
Mohawk Valley, she currently lives in Indiana and works in Taylor
University’s art department.

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Apple Valley Review:
A Journal of Contemporary

ISSN 1931-3888

Volume 10, Number 2
(Fall 2015)

Copyright © 2015
by Leah Browning, Editor.  

All future rights to material
published in the
Valley Review
are retained
by the individual authors
and artists.