By TOM PAINE
When I first became a bee I was just so nectar naïve.
I tumbled over petals waving my antennae frantically.
Then, when I was living life as a flower and not a bee,
well, to back up: this is tragic: I didn’t identify as flower
when I was a flower or as bee when a bee, and when
at last I did at least proclaim myself flower or a bee—
(it wasn’t until I met you, love)—then I discovered
it wasn’t about being a flower or a bee, but everything
in life is really about the nectar. Anyway, when a bee
I was always buzzing around starving for something,
but I didn’t know I was starving, or—and let’s be
honest and repeat—even that I was even a bee at all.
I was just a yellow and black tumble-thumb buzzing
somewhere for buzzing’s sake from sunrise to sunset.
Then, you. I flew into your meadow, and right away
knew you as a flower, and that I was, in fact, a bee.
Insight! Did you know other bees (other than you)
are born not knowing how to sip nectar from flowers?
I didn’t. So at first I didn’t do anything but circle
you obnoxiously. Even if I had a clue about nectar
in this graveyard so many flowers are nectar-barren.
It’s bleak out there. I sometimes see a lonely bee—
there are few of us left—militantly marching across
a rim of petals, irritated as hell, and then scat off.
If you don’t know it’s not the flower but the nectar,
and you don’t have a guidebook on sipping nectar,
and if nectar is very rare, again, things are whacked.
I was always crashing back into the hive empty-handed.
Our Queen then melted down, gave up the starving hive,
and buzzed off forever. The hive was full of stupid drones.
I died in the hive soon after, and awoke a flower like you,
but on that lucky day you were living your best life as a bee,
and nuzzled all over my moist petals and drank my nectar.
I didn’t really know I was a flower, and still didn’t know
I had a sip of paradise to offer. But I saw in your large,
gentle, pixelated eyes how you delighted in my gold nectar.
I don’t think you understand what you have given me.
But then you turned into a flower, and I was a bee again,
and you didn’t believe your own nectar was delicious, and
I was aghast you didn’t know, and I pray now you know
the ambrosia that is you, before you are ever bee or flower.
Tom Paine’s poetry has been published in The Nation, Bennington Review, VOLT, The Moth, Epiphany, and elsewhere. He is a professor in the MFA program at the University of New Hampshire.