For the Hive

Those were years I told one man after another sure,

I’d fuck a lug like you, why not.  I looked down the barrel


of each rifled gaze because I wanted less to be like a woman

who waits than a man who takes as he pleases, enters a bar,


surveys the perennial variety, chooses which one he’ll take

home.  No longing; no loneliness allowed: just action.


I screwed inside the frame of a deflated waterbed like a ship-

wrecked coffin.  In a forest near Fowl Bay where bent over


a felled oak I heard termites gnaw marrow as a Meditator

quoted Thich Nhat Hanh holding my ass from behind.


One so short I leaned wheelbarrow-low and threw out

my back.  A full beard at a pit stop in Manitoba who cited


his trophies and bowling techniques before the white walls

dotted with red tulips bounced to the drunk beat of our bang,


one plush stomach against another. I will never apologize

for lust, I said, to men who asked.  To me sex was less sacred


than ponderous, from the verb ponder, meaning to weigh

and, distantly, egg.  In time each shag scored was less


a victory over gender than a weird, fragile exchange

in which I was given an egg to hold, or so I imagined,


as if to warm another vulnerability inside mine without

breaking.  One yowled he’d never touched a woman,


only men, and when I whispered I didn’t care, he fainted.

I told the firefighter who cried in my arms ecstasy is not


the end; it’s when we go beyond and, for a second, are not

ourselves.  He said, sorry, that sex without love was, to him,


the wet burnt smell of a forest days after its been doused.

But what if it isn’t about love after all; what if sex for me


then was a way to give shape to the untailored cloth

of crude truths I witnessed as a kid in a father and others


after?  I wasn’t always careful: I dragged outrage feet first

onto the sidewalk after he tried harm.  Even his egg has


a name.  There were gems, cock-kickers, mopes, punks.

There was fast talker, divorced and with kids who bellowed


Yeats’ “I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,”

when I told him the job was done.  Then a slew of brooders


like sapphire with their beautiful, busted faces, the lanky one

who sculpted what he called my ruined feet as we lay on


the floor of a rented storefront, leaves blowing through

a mail slot.  That was less raunch than letting night seduce


dawn, the warp and weft, woven skin feeling skin on hands

on skin.  Later, a poet who leaped over the bed like a flying


squirrel, citing Groucho Marks.  Somewhere sloped near

the end of my safari, I grew tired of my body’s hollow mess


when on a bus to Chicago I sat next to Eriks, a painter

who added an “s” to his name for pluralizing purposes.


I was going to an installation on taxidermy, animals

my long-distance lover stuffed and posed before TV sets


he left on static.  “Music emanates from the gaze of dead

beasts,” he fretted, “especially horses: because when eyes


can’t shut they don’t lie.”  But no one keeps eyes open

during orgasm, I argued, as we humped under a grizzly


he’d nailed to a wooden platform on wheels.  We rolled

around the studio, pumping toward our own little deaths,


when his way of looking at me started to make me feel

taxidermic. Eriks listened to the story, frowned, upset not


at the details but the 20 blocks I’d go alone to find this one

he guessed refused to meet me halfway.  When we arrived


in Chi-town, he invited me to share a bowl of warm soup

at Bumblebee Diner.  As we entered, the place glowed in


that legally blind way––outlaw yellow booths striped black

and white.  Eriks asked one question after another, as if


clearing cobwebs from the basement windows of my psyche,

then pointed to a mirage on my arm, an unfinished tattoo


by one who yelped giddy-up! cum time.  Eriks didn’t flinch

when I told him what I experienced as a child.  He set his


spoon down, and in the time it took our soup to go cold

he wrapped his hands around mine like a canoe and stared


into me.  It was hard to brace against his gaze, but the longer

he explored my face the more the fictions I worked so hard


to armor myself with were stripped.  There is no escape.

I am as you are, he said, his face turning into broad lowlands,


big sky view.  The world cleaved at Bumblebee, and I was

alive.  After he walked me where I’d meant to head, he touched


my cheek in a way that transformed me from the inside.

I could hover with you a really long time, he finished, then turned,


leaving me at the door of the one I’d come so far to sleep

with.  As he slipped away a cascade of smells and an electric


field of flowers appeared in my mind, a motley of bees

doing their fantastic dance, swarming aster to lavender,


golden rod, sunflower, helicopter-close to stamen, pistil,

and petal. Laden with as much pollen as she can hold,


the worker drones back to the hive, a smudge of truthiness

lost after so much sex with flowers.  On her return, chalky


and sweet flavors she swallowed swill into a cocktail she vomits

onto a waxy canvas.  She fans her heap dry with furious,


beaten wings till it’s a honeyed, edible shape, then goes on

for the sake of the hive, her life a solitary étude in touch.

Francine Conley is a poet, performer, and director. She has a chapbook of poems, How Dumb the Stars through Parallel Press (2001), was a founding and active member of Franco-American touring theatre company, Le Theatre de la Chandelle Verte 2001-2014. Over the years she’s written, produced and performed eight one-woman multi-media shows in English, including her most recent, The Narrow Road (2015-16). Her poems, interviews and reviews have appeared in such journals as: The New England Review, Juked, Shadowgraph, The Adroit Journal, American Literary Review, Avatar, Palaver, and The Collagist. For more on her art: