Their Faces Shall Be As Flames

New England Review - - Table Of Contents - G. C. Waldrep

That was the spring the bees dis­ap­peared, we didn’t know where they went, where they’d gone, where they were go­ing, it was a rap­ture of the bees, only the weak, the young, the freshly dead left be­hind, a rap­ture of bees, my neigh­bor with the ducks had be­gun to walk like a duck, Fol­low fol­low fol­low Sam he sang as he walked, and they fol­lowed, it was that sim­ple, of course I thought of the Piper, although this pro­ces­sion was more be­nign, my neigh­bor’s I mean, though he in­tended to have each for din­ner, even­tu­ally, and he did not name them, as we don’t name bees, be­cause we don’t see clearly enough to dis­tin­guish them as per­sons, per­son in the gram­mat­i­cal sense, first sec­ond or third, which is why we re­fer to them in the col­lec­tive, usu­ally, they breed, they swarm, they milk their honey for us in the col­lec­tive, and they van­ish col­lec­tively, is this then the true rap­ture, was the one true God af­ter all a god of bees, and now she is tak­ing them home, is this any more com­fort­ing than all the other pro­posed ex­pla­na­tions, pes­ti­cide, fun­gus, mites, elec­tro­mag­netism, even the in­fra­sound the gi­ant wind­mills make, that sends the bats and rap­tors to their deaths, all in­ven­tion gone awry, hive af­ter hive sud­denly empty, as if they’d all flown out less than pur­pose­fully, ca­su­ally, and some­how for­got­ten to come back, held up at the doc­tor’s or the U-haul dealer’s, swarms of them, hun­dreds, thou­sands vagabond in some other land­scape, or ris­ing, we shall meet them in the air, at the post of­fice to mail a let­ter to a woman who might or might not be my love be­cause a rate change had caught me with in­suf­fi­cient postage I had to wait, the clerk was pre­oc­cu­pied with a sort of crate made of wire mesh, through which I could see bees, Re­sis­tant the clerk said as she filled out the forms and sent them, reg­is­tered par­cel post, some­where else, only then did she sell me the stamp I needed, or thought I needed, or hoped to need (there is a sea­son when one hopes to need), and I thought about what it would be like to mail a crate of bees, Re­sis­tant, to my love, if I had a love, and have them van­ish en route, the mesh crate ar­riv­ing dusty, empty, one or two bro­ken, des­ic­cated bod­ies rat­tling lightly around in­side, like seeds in a gourd, or like a child you’ll never have, that is, the pos­si­bil­ity of that child, the rat­tling blood of it, a dif­fer­ent sort of van­ish­ing, we would all like to be­lieve in the act, that Hou­dini was a man, only a man, as he proved in the mo­ment

G. C. Waldrep

and by the pre­cise cir­cum­stance of his death, and the fact of his body, life­less but ex­tant, rat­tling around the ar­cade, the park, the amuse­ment pier of dis­turb­ing co­in­ci­dences, while in Mis­souri another hob­by­ist bee­keeper walks out to her tomb­like hives on a spring morn­ing to find noth­ing there, just boxes, empty boxes, a sort of game a child might in­vent, this rap­ture, same sort of funny story a child will in­vent, when shown a pho­to­graph, This is the po­lice­man, and this is the woman with two heads, and this, which looks like a mod­est red house in a sub­urb, this is re­ally the ghost of the bees, a small ghost, a mod­est ghost, like the ghosts of the lo­custs and the elms, not a ghost to trou­ble us, un­til (in the pho­to­graph) the house spreads its wings and van­ishes, as houses do, or as houses will when the rap­ture ex­tends to ar­chi­tec­ture, the god of small houses hav­ing, first, ex­isted, and then wed the bee god, so that we are left sleep­ing alone again, and out of doors, in spring, as one more source of sweet­ness is sub­tracted from this world and added to another, per­haps, as we would like to think, one of the more com­fort­ing ideas, a sort of eco­nom­ics, a grand ac­count­ing, un­til what an­gel of houses or of bees blows what trum­pet, and we fall as moun­tains upon the in­sects, de­vour them as seas, scorch the houses as with fire, we be­come the ground that hol­lows be­neath them and the air they fly through, their worm­wood star, as all the bees of heaven watch from heaven and all the houses of heaven lean down for a closer look, and the smoke drifts up­ward, and we are the smoke, we are only the smoke, in­side of which my neigh­bor walks, with his ducks, and sings, and they fol­low, and my hive lazes, drowses as if they or it were dream­ing us, as if they or us were touch­able, sim­ple as a story, an ex­pla­na­tion, any fic­tion, as if they thought of us, or were pray­ing, or were danc­ing, or were lonely, as if they could be, or would be, touched.

(2009, Vol­ume 30.1)

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