It has been said that when Saint Ambrose
was an infant, sleeping openmouthed in his crib,
a swarm of bees flew into his mouth.
Whether they stung him or flew out again
is not recorded in the annals of the saints.
It was also said he would become an orator
with honeyed tongue. Imagine sermons
sweet as flowers, ambrosia of his golden words
now lost to history’s dark hive.
It takes a million flowers to make a pound of honey
so Irish bees have been busy ever since
they followed Sixth century Saint Modomhnac
from Wales to Ireland, clinging to the sails
of his ship as it flew over the waves toward home.
When the Saint became a hermit,
some bees renounced the hubbub of the hive
for the fields and flowers of the countryside.
Their solitary task—to mate and die
unencumbered by the job of parenting
or allegiance to a queen.
No wonder later monks adopted beehive huts
for their saintly ruminations.
There will be no drones in this hive,
our mother used to say—an empty threat
from a woman who could not bear to hurt a fly.
But when our aunt came issuing decrees,
we whirred with joy like worker bees
relieved to be assigned our proper roles.
Apple jelly, my jam tart, tell me
the name of your sweetheart.
Mother said to tell our secrets to the bees
who knew how to keep it to themselves,
unlike the neighbors who would
live in your ear if you let them.