after the deaths, bees will collect pollen from the flowers


by Paula Harris

Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Mosque terrorist attack, Christchurch, 15 March 2019

along the police cordon, outside the mosques, outside
while the sun is in the autumn sky
the bees go from flower to flower, collecting pollen

they will include these flowers in their waggle dance
so that all the bees in their hive will know,
and they collect the pollen and the nectar because
this is their nature

once my fascial stretch therapist said to me
But there isn’t really racism in New Zealand though
as she shifted my leg further over her shoulder
and I told her, yes, yes there is
and she screwed up her forehead and said
No, but not really
and I don’t think I need to tell you what colour she is
and that I was too tired to argue the point
(as you can tell that I am middle-class and Pākehā
by the fact that I have a fascial stretch therapist
despite not being an athlete)

a single bee can carry 100mg of nectar in its stomach in a single trip
although the average load is 20 to 40mg

to make a kilogram of nectar that bee will need to make up to 50,000 trips
or 50,000 bees will need to make one trip each

if a bee is carrying pollen rather than nectar
she can carry half her own body weight in pollen

last night while I slept heavy and restless
ten road workers, including a man named Jay Waaka
who looks so very tired,
shifted thousands of flowers from the cordon
to the side of the road, to allow vehicles access to the mosque,
layering the bunches thick on the footpath
and they placed each bunch of flowers upright
so that the flowers could see the sun
so that the bees could see the flowers

bees have an open circulatory system, so their hearts are tubes
leaking blood into their bodies

within seven weeks these bees will have reached the end of their lifespans
and by then their waggle dance will no longer include these flowers

a poem feels like a silly, pointless thing to do,
not when compared to collecting nectar and pollen,
so I go outside and watch the bees sipping on the yellow flowers
in my lawn, small flowers that I don’t know the name of,
and hope they make something good


About the Author:

Paula Harris lives in New Zealand, where she writes poems and sleeps in a lot, because that’s what depression makes you do. She won the 2018 Janet B. McCabe Poetry Prize and the 2017 Lilian Ida Smith Award. Her poetry has been published in various journals, including Queen Mob’s Teahouse, Poetry NZ Yearbook, Snorkel, The Spinoff, Landfall and Broadsheet.