In Thrall
Beverly Burch

In Thrall

The bee parts petals on a rose already browned,
drooping. I watch it sink deeper,
its legs caressing the faded blossom, slow strokes
on a viola. It pauses, brushes its face, tastes, smells.
Never saw a bee linger so long—
don’t they skip flower to flower? Time crawls by,
I wait for the thing to leave so I can prune.
I time it, clippers in hand, gloves
smudged with dirt. Ten minutes. Maybe it’s injured,
frail wings useless. Otherwise there’s tyranny
in an ebbing scent. A mystery I need to work out.
Not as hard as the question of why
my daughter stayed attached to that boy long after
there was hope. Things withered,
he offered no joy anymore. All I could do was watch,
bewildered, vexed, hands itching
to grab her, pull her free. The bee staggers down
another sagging petal. And outlasts me, my patience
weaker than its desire. I grab the stalk.
Petals drop. It holds on, the flowerhead bare.
Finally, I snap the stem and the creature plummets
like a body downed by fate. Rustling ferns at the base,
I can’t spot its little black-gold business
until a sudden blur of bee buzzes up, vanishes.
Released. It required being knocked low. More painful
than a wallop. With her I could only watch,
stand there, watch her fall.

Beverly Burch

is the author of three poetry collections. Her most recent, Latter Days of Eve, won the John Ciardi Poetry Prize. Other work has won the Lambda Poetry Prize and has been a finalist for the Audrey Lorde Award. Her poetry and fiction have appeared in Denver Quarterly, New England Review, Willow Springs, Salamander, Tinderbox, Mudlark, Barrow Street, and Poetry Northwest.