Then rise when you’re ready from your soul’s hard floor

illustration of a bee on a windowsill
Art by Kristina Closs

BEE ON A SILL 

by Tracy K. Smith (1972-)

Submits to its own weight, 
the bulb of itself too full, 

too weak or too wise
to lift and go. 

And something blunt in me
remembers the old charade 

about putting a thing out 
of its misery. For it? For me? 

Sleep, Bee, deep and easy. 
Hive, heave, give, grieve. 

Then rise when you’re ready
from your soul’s hard floor

to sweet work 
or some war.

For us, all that’s left is kisses

From one of my favorite Russian poets, Osip Mendelstam (1891-1938). If you enjoy this one, here’s another I posted two years ago.

“Take from my palm, to sooth your heart”

Take from my palms, to soothe your heart,
a little honey, a little sun,
in obedience to Persephone’s bees.

You can’t untie a boat that was never moored,
nor hear a shadow in its furs,
nor move through thick life without fear.

For us, all that’s left is kisses
tattered as the little bees
that die when they leave the hive.

Deep in the transparent night they’re still humming,
at home in the dark wood on the mountain,
in the mint and lungwort and the past.

But lay to your heart my rough gift,
this unlovely dry necklace of dead bees
that once made a sun out of honey.”

translated from the Russian by Clarence Brown and W.S. Merwin