Peter Olds

Black Bees

My father used the old Ford as a tractor,
dragged dead cows to the pit across the paddock,
taking me along because I was quiet and no trouble.
I’d stand on the back seat and watch him blowing

stumps with plugs of powder; watch him straightening hives
the cows had rubbed against; watch him smoke bees dopey
before taking the lids off the hives ... Sometimes he’d leave
me and the car on a dusty back road.

I’d stand on the back seat, the car rocking in a hot nor-wester,
while he went off into the silence of whining fence-wire,
somewhere out there; smoking bees, making sermons
in the sweet smell of hemp smouldering in the puffer.

He’d come back, poke his head through the open window and enquire:
‘Are you alright?’
He’d open the door and the smell of sticky wax would follow him in.
He’d toss the straw hat covered in fairy wings onto the back seat.

I don’t remember being stung.
They said they stopped counting ...
I could hardly breathe.
‘Stay in the car,’ was the order, but in the silence I forgot.

The hot nor-wester was full of raiding black bees.
I climbed down and went to look for him.
The wind whined in the fence-wire.
The car rocked in the yellow dust.

Author’s Note


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