Monday, September 14, 2009
Catherine Carter, who lives in Cullowhee, is one of the most interesting poets writing today. Also one of the best. Her poems about the environment go beyond cliche into the biological realities of the world around us without missing a lyrical beat. "Swarm" pulls us into the universe of a honeybee swarm with language that connects us with the real living "other" around us. When you read her first book, The MEMORY OF GILLS, that won the Roanoke-Chowan award from the NC Literary and Historical Association, your learn a lot about the natural world. I hope we have more poems of this caliber submitted to Netwest's Environmental contest. This is a contest we mustn't let die.
(Third Place Winner)
Twenty-five years back, at home,
the summer hour was late when the afternoon
light began to hum, and a thousand
specks came arrowing out of the west,
the air waxed thick with honeybees up in swarm.
They crept and crawled on our closed
screens, stormed and boomed around the old
maple: one of the things you remember
forever, a sign you can’t read, alien,
and yet down in your bones you know
you want this. Want to open the screen and go
out there, breathe the wind of gauze
wings, pet striped velvet, feel
the sisters’ feet prick your skin.
I didn’t know then that swarming
bees don’t sting, and working bees hardly
sting, and bumblebees let you stroke
their black satin as they drink the blooms.
I didn’t know how little harm
most things mean, how even the dangerous
snake tries to slide away, how safe
we were. But I think of it now, stirring
the soft bees barehanded, shaking
down this week’s thrumming swarm,
hoping they’ll come home. The summer
hour is late, but not too late.