The Bee Box



    In this small box, my love,
    you'll not find a ring,
    but instead, a brave, little bee.
    He'll be dead by morn, having given his life
    defending his flowers against me.
    I felt his sting
    while picking the small, purple pansies
    growing wild along the roadside,
    in hopes of an afternoon bouquet for you.
    And I grieved the sting,
    more for him than me,
    knowing full well the price he paid
    for my small pain.
    And I allowed him his victory,
    leaving his flowers as a memory,
    and brought you instead
    this brave, little bee,
    who proves there is love
    even in the smallest
    of things.

    -- Lowell Parker

This heartrending little poem is by a netizen whose only comment about can be found at Electra's Fire’s blogspot (external link) where he comments, “It's sort've gained a life and reputation of it's own. I google it every three months or so to see what websites it pops up on.”

Mr. Parker was responding to a remark by the blogger. Electra observes, “I stopped by the vendors who like to entice me to spend more money at my University than I need to only because I heard Mercy trying to talk herself out of large earrings.

I promptly talked her back into them. "Mercy" and "downsizing" are not words that belong in the same sentence.

I saw one of those giant plastic pseudo-mod/semi-rave rings with a bee inside it.

I was immediately lovestruck. And it was $3.

It is peach, with sparkles, a mummified bee inside it, and it is in the shape of a heart. It reminded me of a poem I read once, "The Bee Box," in which a male lover wants to get flowers for his beloved, but finds that he gets stung by a bee in the process. Noticing how the bee bravely chose to give up his life to protect the thing he loved (in his bee way), the man decides instead to give his beloved "this brave little bee, who proves there is love even in the smallest of things."

The Bee Box was featured in an edition of The Wondering Minstrels Yahoo poetry group and I can see why Electra found it such striking prose. Prateek Sharma, the one who brought the poem to the attention of the group to enjoy notes:

    “Form vs Freedom of Expression has been an age old question for art creators and critics. When I posed this question to our poetry teacher, she came up with this poem. This poem does not score too well on the metre/rhyme front. There are some grammatical errors and inconsistency in style as well.

    Yet, the poem just soars. The imagery is transforming. It touches us on a very human level. It says so much about love and courage. And about sensitivity. How much can we learn from this world and its creatures!”

What is form and the freedom of expression?

Poetry frequently utilizes very condensed forms to put across a feeling or an idea to the reader or listener. Examples of form would be haiku or sonnets. Poets also employ strategies like assonance, alliteration and repetition to create melodic or rhymes effects. Additionally, verses can make use of imagery, word association, and musical qualities. These qualities can be seen as expression. In the same way, poetry's use of allusion and symbolism can leave a poem open to numerous understandings.

American poetic form, like America itself, is jam-packed with delectable paradoxes and irresolvable points of view. A quality observable in the four quintessential American poets—Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, William Carlos Williams, and Allen Ginsberg—is that every one of them use form and structure to generate meaning from words that are not limited to lexicon. Meaning here springs out of the unstated, the gesture,—it is a connection between poet and reader that is by definition empathic, in that the poet’s feelings resists explanation and yet is utterly understood.

”Dickinson's brilliant reworking,” says Rafael Campo from What’s American about American Poetry “of received forms (borrowed from church hymnals as much as from William Shakespeare) stretched space iambs and quatrains into infinite spaces of reflection on themes of mortality, human suffering, and desire—her dashes are the beginning of the empathetic imagination, inviting the reader to be present at the moment of revelation, a participant in the process of creation, as is only possible in America, a country ever in search of its beginnings. Whitman, whose imagining of form more explicitly enacts that same impulse to reach out, in lines long enough to stretch across the same vast and expanding nation, into the consciousness of his far-flung readers, was similarly engaged in the question of empathy—though his poems take shape so differently on the page. Williams, another great innovator in the use of form, laid bare the mysteriousness of perception itself, at a moment when American technological know-how seemed capable of explaining everything about us, reducing empathy almost to the level of its physiologic foundations—of seeing, of sensing, of tasting, of feeling. Just when it seemed American form had been pushed to its limits,” continues Campo, “Ginsberg set it all on fire and left the old building screaming at the top of his lungs.”

Lowell took the opportunity for amplifying what can be said with mere words and layered his language with possibility, for compassion. A sweet expression of human love and a path toward empathy. It's interesting to note that the poem is now being used in the classroom. Here’s hoping that Mr. Parker will pop in and let us know what inspired the vignette of a sacheted creature and who he wrote it for.

Sources:

Electra's Fire, The Bee Box:
http://fireyelectra.blogspot.com/2005/09/bee-box.html
Accessed September 7, 2006

Poem #1927: Lowell Parker:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/minstrels/message/2009
Accessed September 7, 2006.

Rafael Campo, What’s American about American poetry:
http://www.poetrysociety.org/wacampo.html
Accessed September 7, 2006.

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