The thing about the shape of a bee, which might be why it is often drawn curved around a flower with the black head bowed over the thorax and the knees tucked in lovely and benign as a comma, lucent wings arching from stripes furred to catch pollen blurring with light, is that the shape of the bee is like the honey it makes, sweet, healing, golden-lit from within such that a bee fallen dead on the rug or balled along the base of a window frame still holds the comma shape, and while it may be that

bees like to sleep with other bees holding their feet

it is not how we think of bees, sleeping like new babies, we think of bees at work, laboring, and maybe that is the thing, right there, the thing that persists in their own minds, too, how bees think of themselves, abuzz in the hive keeping away invaders or tidying the chambers or collecting some pollen, working always working without distinction or honor, more like how a hanger serves a coat, taking away from words the ability to help themselves by themselves one after another compounding in our held breath, an enfeebling thing the comma, a poet once said, when words could just follow each other into a line, which is to say a sentence, enfeebling, but a beehive is not a one-after-another thing, at least not in a line, it is more a multiplication the honeycomb composed chamber upon chamber and so on that is the way of the hive on the inside but how the hive looks on the outside is another thing entire, the outside of a hive a piling on, one bee on top of another, mounding, though this was not how it started, first the bees swarmed outside our kitchen window, uncountable dots swelling humming diving shaping a flock of birds but not birds far up in the sky, up close, the scale off, contracting in one mind the decision that this house of ours must be the place,

I smoked cigarettes then,

I had weaned my son, my first son, but was still addicted enough to step out each evening to smoke the one cigarette on the porch where the bees had made their hive just above where we stood, exposed to the eye and the size and shape of the head of an ox, the hive more black than gold, sagging at the bottom from bee holding on to bee, comma-like, unsettling, so much so a friend who was really only good for smoking with, so few of us now, retreated from the porch but with a laugh at the bees that was really a laugh at us for allowing bees to hive on our house with a child toddling about and smokers milling about, I puffed cigarette smoke at the hive and to my delight the hive roared and buzzed, doubling in size without adding a bee, let alone multiplying, but nonetheless amassed, an angry thing, this hive, our first, dribbling down, no way around it disgust is how a thing like that makes you feel, a hive wedging between the pine boards of the house a lot like a hive wedges into the place in the mind where fight or flight holes up, and maybe that hive is why I’ve quit smoking but I could just as well blame it on the fires that ash up the air in the canyon no different from smoking a pack a day, or so they said, in those days of our first hive how could we have known, having recently moved in and knowing nothing about wells and groundwater, which are some of the things you must know of if you choose to live off the grid, that a lone bee buzzing at the window is not kept out by the screen as we thought because the bee was never looking at the screen or at us safe behind it but rather at the holes in the pine drilled by the woodpecker tapping for bugs running under the boards of our house, holing a door in the gap between the exterior and interior walls where a swarm could pass through and Jesus start to chamber, but

we have gained country ways or gone coyote, as they say in the canyon,

and you would think, after the cost of getting the hive scraped off the outside wall, and after nailing up new pine boards in place, when the next swarm settled inside the midsection of our roof, we would have done something about it and quickly, but I was nursing again and it was all I could do to get milk into a newborn coughing on the smoke, which was the only relief for the swelling in my breasts that were killing me, so bees were not the trouble really no trouble at all they do not hunt you out, like a comma will to enfeeble your sentence or a yellow jacket will to feast on your milk, out of nowhere a yellow jacket stung my swelled breast with the newborn only just latched on after all the coughing, I leaped up with an ouch and the baby rolled off my lap onto the cushion, but not bees, they just roamed our living room while I nursed, looking for a way out without finding one even when doors were propped open, the bees spinning in smaller and smaller circles of dismay to paper out on our carpet but never menacing, and we were trusting then and full of home, thinking everything would be fine with our baby, what could we worry about fires we could not put out or the smoke that kept looking like the bees for a way out of the house but never found it and so stayed in our baby’s cough, and at least this new hive was out of sight, except for a bee here and there roaming the rug so when the summer made hotter by the fires or the fires inflamed by the heat melted the honeycomb, the bees were in trouble—no storing honey when the chambers won’t hold, though the bees tried, I’m sure of it, why

Photo by Waugsberg, WikiMedia Commons