That was the spring the bees disappeared, we didn’t know
where they went, where they’d gone, where they were going, it was a
rapture of the bees, only the weak, the young, the freshly dead
left behind, a rapture of bees, my neighbor with the ducks had begun to walk
like a duck, Follow follow follow Sam he sang as he walked, and they followed,
it was that simple, of course I thought of the Piper, although
this procession was more benign, my neighbor’s I mean, though he intended
to have each for the dinner, eventually, and he did not name them,
as we don’t name bees, because we don’t see clearly enough
to distinguish them as persons, person in the grammatical sense, first second
or third, which is why we refer to them in the collective, usually,
they breed, they swarm, they milk their honey for us
in the collective, and they vanish collectively, is this then the true
rapture, was the one true God after all a god of bees, and now she is taking
them home, is this any more comforting than all the other proposed explanations,
pesticides, fungus, mites, electromagnetism, even the infrasound the giant
windmills make, that sends the bats and raptors
to their deaths, all invention gone awry, hive after hive
suddenly empty, as if they’d all flown out less than purposefully, casually,
and somehow forgotten to come back, held up at the doctor’s or the U-Haul
dealer’s, swarms of them, hundreds, thousands vagabond
in some other landscape, or rising, we shall meet them in the air,
at the post office to mail a letter to a woman who might or might not be my love
because a rate change had caught me with insufficient postage
I had to wait, the clerk was preoccupied with a sort of crate
made of wire mesh, through which I could see bees, Resistant the clerk said
as she filled out the forms and sent them, registered parcel post, somewhere
else, only then did she sell me the stamp I needed,
or thought I needed, or hoped to need (there is a season
when one hopes to need), and I thought about what it would be like
to mail a crate of bees, Resistant, to my love, if I had a love, and have them
vanish en route, the mesh crate arriving dusty, empty, one or two
broken, desiccated bodies rattling lightly around inside, like seeds in a gourd,
or like a child you’ll never have, that is, the possibility of that child, the rattling
blood of it, a different sort of vanishing, we would all like to believe
in the act, that Houdini was a man, only a man, as he proved in the moment
and by the precise circumstances of his death, and the fact of his body,
lifeless but extant, rattling around the arcade, the park, the amusement pier
of disturbing coincidences, while in Missouri another hobbyist beekeeper
walks out to her tomblike hives on a spring morning
to find nothing there, just boxes, empty boxes, a sort of game
a child might invent, this rapture, same sort of funny story
a child will invent, when shown a photograph, This is the policeman,
and this is the woman with two heads,
and this, which looks like a modest
red house in a suburb, this is really the ghost of the bees,
a small ghost, a modest ghost, like the ghosts of the locusts and the elms,
not a ghost to trouble us, until (in the photograph) the house spreads its wings
and vanishes, as houses do, or as houses will when the rapture extends
to architecture, the god of small houses having, first, existed, and then wed
the bee god, so that we are left sleeping alone again, and out of doors, in spring,
as one more source of sweetness is subtracted from this world
and added to another, perhaps, as we would like to think, one of the
more comforting ideas, a sort of economics, a grand
accounting, until what angel of houses or of bees blows what trumpet,
and we fall as mountains upon the insects, devour them as seas,
scorch the houses as with fire, we become the ground that hollows beneath
them and the air they fly through, and the smoke drifts upward, and we are the smoke, we are
only the smoke, inside of which my neighbor walks, with his ducks, and sings,
and they follow, and my hive lazes, drowses as if they or it were dreaming
us, as if they or us were touchable, simple as a story, an explanation,
any fiction, as if they thought of us, or were praying, or were dancing,
or were lonely, as if they could be, or would be touched.

George Calvin Waldrep, “Their Faces Shall Be as Flames”