and only their honey will survive

illustration by Kristina Closs of a gray and gold landscape with flowers framing a large centered golden moon that has bees within it. in the background are outlines of buildings and on the bottom half of the illustration is a honeycombed pattern that forms the terrain.
Art by Kristina Closs

Bees, Honeycombs, Honey

By Hayan Charara

Bees, thousands and thousands,
surviving in a hive
under the soffit; bees,
honeycombs, and honey,
and dampness, and old wood
sticky in the sunlight;

and the beekeeper’s hand,
carefully, and slowly,
vacuuming, and taking;
the bees tumbling, gently,
into the makeshift hive;
honeybees, and honeycombs,

and honey, glistening;
honey, the only food
that will not spoil; honey,
pulled from the pyramids,
still sticky, and sweet,
thousands of years later;

I may not believe, but
I want to; and the bees
before my eyes are now
disappearing; bees God
in the Qur’an inspired
to build homes in mountains

and trees; bees that built homes
in the trees near the grave
in Detroit; and the bees
in Jerusalem’s graves;
bees in every city,
and in every age; bees,

honey, and honeycombs,
through disaster after
disaster; bees building,
and scouting, and dancing;
bees mating, protecting,
and attacking; the bees

are now disappearing,
and dying; and the bees
the beekeeper cannot
save are dying but still
guarding the empty hive,
butting their heads against

my children, boys who will
grow to be men and build
their own homes, now dipping
fingers into honey
darkening on the ground;
they are dying; the hive

is gone; the queen is gone;
thousands and thousands, gone;
but the bees will come back,
and the hive will come back;
if not here, then elsewhere;
and there will be more bees

making more honeycombs,
more honey, and more bees;
and one day all the bees
will be gone; gone, and gone;
honeycombs, and houses,
gone; and trees, gone; oak, elm,

birch, gone; all trees, flowers,
gone; and birds, leaves, branches,
cicadas, and crickets,
grasshoppers, ants, worms, gone;
and cities, and rivers,
big cities, small cities,

big rivers, small rivers,
gardens, and homes; and homes;
the bees will be gone, and
only their honey will
survive, and we will not
be around to taste it.

from These Trees, Those Leaves, This Flower, That Fruit 


The earth said remember me. The earth said don’t let go.

fiddleneck flowers at dawn
Fiddleneck at dawn, Russian River Open Space Preserve. Photo by my wonderfully talented friend Jeff Schwegman. Click the photo for more! 

In honor of Earth Day, and all days on this earth, here is a stunning poem by Jorie Graham (1950-).


The earth said
remember me.
The earth said
don’t let go,

said it one day
when I was
listening, I

heard it, I felt it
like temperature,
all said in a
whisper—build to-

morrow, make right be-
fall, you are not
free, other scenes
are not taking

place, time is not filled,
time is not late, there is
a thing the emptiness
needs as you need

emptiness, it
shrinks from light again &
again, although all things
are present, a

fact a day a
bird that warps the
arithmetic of per-
fection with its

arc, passing again &
again in the evening
air, in the pre-
vailing wind, making no

mistake—yr in-
difference is yr
principal beauty
the mind says all the

time—I hear it—I
hear it every-
where. The earth
said remember

me. I am the
earth it said. Re-
member me.

Who can utter the poignance of all that is constantly threatened

As wildfire smoke covers so much of California in an eerie, devastating haze, I can’t help but think of this Denise Levertov poem that I posted years ago. Tonight I am holding not only this ever-fragile paradise I call home and all its people close to my heart but also the threatened landscapes and communities disintegrating across the world every day.


“In California: Morning, Evening, Late January”

Pale, then enkindled,
summits of palm and pine,

the dew
scripture of

Soon the roar
of mowers
cropping the already short
grass of lawns,

men with long-nozzled
cylinders of pesticide
poking at weeds,
at moss in cracks of cement,

and louder roar
of helicopters off to spray
vineyards where braceros try
to hold their breath,

and in the distance, bulldozers, excavators,
babel of destructive construction.

Banded by deep
oakshadow, airy
shadow of eucalyptus,

miner’s lettuce,
tender, untasted,
and other grass, unmown,
no green more brilliant.

Fragile paradise.

. . . .

At day’s end the whole sky,
vast, unstinting, flooded with transparent
tint of wisteria,
over the malls, the industrial parks,
the homes with the lights going on,
the homeless arranging their bundles.

. . . .

Who can utter
the poignance of all that is constantly
threatened, invaded, expended

and constantly
persists in beauty,

tranquil as this young moon
just risen and slowly
drinking light
from the vanished sun.

Who can utter
the praise of such generosity
or the shame?