Bees communicate through a series of movements called the ‘waggle dance’ . . . Scientists understand some of the basic mechanics of the dance, but in order to tease out its subtleties a group of researchers at the Free University of Berlin are working on a robotic bee. – Rebecca J. Rosen, The Atlantic
In a lab, an electrified honeybee swims
among a natural swarm, inconspicuous
hum of tiny machinations syncopating
with the thrum of breath and blood
in the scientist’s ear above. He mans
the computer, his finger waggling
fast as the bee he controls. Dumb, the doll
climbs its glass wall, drawing symbols:
tree, flower, food. Sugar-dipped, its body
is an earnest imposter. It makes do
in the mind-dark tumult of the hive,
moving through the slip and fog
of honey with a metal leg and plastic wings.
The scientist stabs at meaning
with clumsy thumbs, and the glazed bee
retraces its lonely samba top to bottom.
A kind of glossolalia, this dance-talk: a robot
is a bee is a tongue is a poem estranged
from a brain. This way, it says, wis thay.
Don’t you see? The others take note,
or they don’t. It’s not up to the puppet,
of course—when to give up.
After so long, the dull din of the whole
buzzing throng just fades into the room,
like anything. The electric bee wriggles
itself dizzy, flourish upon flourish
as the god-hand ticks away on its little keys.
The Tolerance of St. Teresa of Ávila
God was a habit for you, like any of mine—
a stay against the omnipotent nothingness
of life. Some sisters shut themselves up
in their bodies like lonely hosts lying
inside their private tabernacles.
If you ask me, moderation is tacky as fruitcake,
indulgence a kind of honesty. Tell me:
when you allowed His mystery to touch
your mystery, did you open like a jack in the box?
Did your soul spring out? No, God is never
so immediate. Still, you worked the hallelujah
like a crank, turning it around in your mouth,
dreading the return to your daylight mind,
which must have felt like mine—a rented room
compared to that black paradise. God or drug
as trap door: when you fainted, the floor
was a carpet of upturned hands, so you fell softly
for centuries through all your other selves before
you heard His voice at the end of some hallway—
nearing so slowly, a fingernail up your spine,
and the hall a little longer each time.
The Suffering of St. Teresa of Ávila
Laced with ulcers, Teresa prays before the altar,
fixing her eyes on the stained glass passion
blooming behind her, where a skein of heaven
unravels in panels of blue around the virgin—
the virgin ever grateful for the sky’s deliveries—
the sky’s hue ever apologetic.
Teresa sees herself,
a murmuration of grievances flying around the Christ—
but the Christ’s suffering circles his head in red—
in red, the Christ’s suffering crowns as her pain does—
pain’s slow pressure and sudden scream of color—
the color made brighter by the sun behind it—
behind everything, pain’s relativity.
her grievances shrink and scatter, vanishing
in the anti-shadow of God’s grace—
God’s grace garish a garnish, those spikes
of pineapple light propped on the horizon—
the horizon’s unblinking eye blind as ever
to Teresa, now a single fleck of gray
silently drifting out of the frame.
Diorama of a Runaway
A scrap of old curtain stapled onto the shoebox
makes a roof that droops, casting the scene
in the partial dark of memory.
I peer through
the miniature window, a rough square
cut from the cardboard and replaced
with a crosshatching of scotch tape
on saran wrap—glass someone has left
I sketch two shadows on its underside:
a father lost long ago, and his daughter
on one of her escapades.
to time, she returns—unlike him, she thinks—
slipping back in with the rouged face of day,
I place her back in bed:
a dry grain of rice, she falls into the corner crack
She’ll never stay put.
I snip along a curtain seam
and light seeps in.
I see my work more clearly.
There’s no mistaking it—my father’s shadow
in the window is the same as my own.
Finally, I tear
the fabric roof away, forcing the morning
on like a switch, and I see what else I’ve missed:
that first night I left,
my mother waking
to find another empty bed—
not her own this time.
Buzzing in the box,
she is a June bug caught in the flare of the hall light,
frantically calling us both home.