He was barely three, leaning casually on the bee table
as though on a cracker barrel at a country store
having a chew and telling stories with cronies––
three or four––who themselves had stories to tell.
But here there were hundreds of clustering bees
wondering about this young stranger.
Was he friend or foe? Was he flower or bear?
A giver or taker? They all became investigators
crawling over his platinum crown, dyed a living
brown and gold, and moving as he now began
himself to move. I called to him, Slowly,
slowly. He came to me and under the rush
of the outdoor faucet, the investigators met
with a new element: a surprise of water
so quick and wet, they left his head in panic,
flew off to dry in the summer air. But his hands
were stung again and again before the honey tribe
flew off entirely. Years passed of not understanding
why he insisted on wearing long sleeves,
on wearing long pants in the heat of summer.
The bees, of course, the bees. He was able,
however, to divorce the horror from honey
and claimed the first spoonful from the first jar
to crown his English muffin; to reclaim
that sweetest of sweets from the sharpest of stings.