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Stung

After reading Kim Severson’s “On the Trail of Tupelo Honey, Liquid Gold From the Swamps.”

I suck the honey
of summer’s starting
from the hive,
come late to loving
this season of excess and sweat.
In tupelo country,
the blooms came early,
were licked, then stripped
by hurricane.
The hives left battered, smashed,
and floating on dark swathes
of swamp. A fickle thing—
to make a living on the whim
of an insect. Their fragile industry
so easily interrupted. It seems
each day, now, another species dies.
Another city sinks by inches
toward the sea. Yet the season turns
and summer is more precious
for its precarity, a luxury
to hoard. This greenery, this lush
spill of life. Bees can roam for miles
in search of nectar. I crave such imperative.
To know my purpose in the glut
of the Anthropocene. Instead,
I keep my hunger close,
smoke-piped and sleepy.
Tell myself that means something.
My impermanence
seems beside the point. The tidy drama
of my life. While I sleep soundly
acres of forest burn. I do not think
we will be forgiven, not for this.
Breath constricts. The most prized
varietals of honey fetch higher prices each year,
are said to taste of cinnamon and tangerine,
glow almost green when held to the light.
Some never crystallize. Will still, years later,
pool like butter on the tongue.
I want this, somehow, to make it better—
that the sweetness at least, will last.


Caroline Shea is the author of the chapbook Lambflesh (Kelsay Books, 2019) and an assistant poetry editor at Washington Square Review. Her work has appeared previously in Crab Fat Magazine, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and The Pinch, among other publications. In 2019, she received The Pinch Literary Award and she’s currently an MFA candidate in poetry at NYU.