Swarm ||| from Hot Metal Bridge


Two bees fence before us, foils reversed. Mouths stained powdered orange, t-shirts ripped
from fighting; scabby armed, we gulp Tang from scratched-blue plastic glasses,

spy the neighbor through the wire gridded safety of the screen door as he carries
bee boxes in that slow bee man way. One bee passes the man who hung upside

down on his green-planked porch. We’d watched gravity defeated before, but only in snowy
black and white glass rectangles wheeled into our classroom. One bee rests.

Not up close, not some friend who lived two fields and one thin forest away, not
from someone who told us stories, just down the gravel road, past the white pines,

feared for sheltering deer during hunting season. Ankles cuffed in a silver catalog
contraption, defying gravity in front of the painted white boards, green trim

of the farm house he’d been born in, this Norwegian bachelor who read plants
like books, who bred White Bleeding Hearts and sheltered Showy Lady Slippers,

the white petals sitting on the streaked pink pouch, the hairy oval leaves clasping
stem, who taught us kindness, and a sturdy way of looking on, in, longer, deeper. Suited

like an Apollo astronaut Paul Tagnjerd strumming the papered channels as if they were a Django guitar
instead of hexagonal house. Even knowing he would get stung, we could not

avert our eyes. His boots scraping gravel, his hand holding sure fire, gently requesting our father
not to shoot deer on his property, gently showing us what it was not to be afraid of bees.


Honeycomb of Ice, Skep of Heaven, Bowl of Water. God Bee, Wasp Deceiver.
One bee is noble, feeding the infant God. In swarm, the bee mass fear,

pursuing the common good. St. Ambroce of the wicker step, this bee far older than
its keeper Sophocles, Xenophone, Lucan, St. Basil, Democritus pleading to be buried

in a bath of honey. Bees feeding an abandoned Pindar as he slept on the slope
of Mt. Hymettus. Bees dropped honey into Plato’s mouth. Bee nourishment.

Into this hive of water, the bees buzz. Numbered and numbering. The pond is an
anemone clock where the numbers are changed manually. The bee bore the book,

pocked the font, punctured the page according to the inclinations
of the silver minnows and the rain. The law according to hive.


J.R. Toriseva’s “Dandelion Rites” was chosen for the anthology Days I Moved Through Ordinary Sound (City Lights). She was awarded the Mary Merritt Henry Prize in Poetry. Toriseva’s work has appeared in or is forthcoming from The Cincinnati Review, Descant, Nimrod, The Adirondack Review, and Grey Sparrow Journal.

Her poem, “Mobile Fringe,” was published in John LeCarre (TLR, Winter 2015).

Swarm” was originally featured on Hot Metal Bridge in the Summer 2014 issue.