I walk through the front gate, bold as new brass.
Pale under her gauze veil, the beekeeper rises from her chair.
I could use some help, she says, and steps off the porch
like a bride jumping from a slow train.
Sweating in long clothes, I follow her to the hives
where thousands of buzzing eyes ignore us.
She hands me gloves, a pith helmet draped with gauze.
My sister’s got a job, I tell her, at the Wolverine Glove Plant.
It’s a fair wage, she answers. You do as I say.
Find the queen, take hold of her left wing like this,
and raise her from the comb.
Let her stand on your finger.
Pass one blade of the scissors under her right wing
and clip off at least two-thirds. Don’t pinch her belly.
I take hold of one wing between my thumb and forefinger
while she clips the other.
Set the queen on the comb before she tries to fly.
The swarm will follow her out.
Find her crawling on the ground and cover her with a tumbler.
The swarm will hover.
The way she goes about her business sets my teeth on edge.
My sister and her boy friend have a diamond ring in lay-away.
You’ll do for the summer, she says. That’s fine with me.
When I graduate I’m going to get a job at the Olsen Knife Plant.
I set the tumbler over the queen, who flutters in the dust.
The beekeeper waves the wing at the swarm overhead.
Graceful as a girl, arms raised,
she dances slowly, circling the tumbler.
I can’t stand there. I waltz up and open my hand.
Regal as a queen, she drops the wing in my palm.
It is weightless, lighter than the communion host.
I don’t know why this comes as a surprise.