Poetry July 2006

Eulogy for an Anchorite

A poem by David Barber, from his new book Wonder Cabinet

Brother Adam, devout bee breeder,
Today the paper ran your obit.
A brisk write-up, yet how it brims
With the lambent amber of your bliss.
Your abiding faith in the honeybee
Imbued your days with abounding grace.

"Brother Adam, Benedictine monk,
Transformed beekeeping, at 98..."
I adore that squib. I laud your slant
On beatitude and humble soulcraft.
I love the fact your name was gold
In apiaries around the globe.

Brother Adam, from Buckfast Abbey
In Britain's toe, you would abscond
(Often on foot, or astride a donkey)
To Araby and the Holy Land,
There to bushwhack for robust strains
To husband in your cloistered hives.

At ninety, admirable Brother Adam,
You bobbed to the top of Kilimanjaro
Strapped to the back of a kindred spirit
In pursuit of the burly Monticola.
Brother Adam, that took some aplomb.
It buoys me simply to think of it.

O Brother Adam, if I may be so bold,
You must have harbored no higher rapture
Than when a swarm's harmonious hubbub
Swelled into a thrumming rumble.
The heather bloomed, the nectar flowed:
What choir ever soared any sweeter?

You're the stuff of fable, Brother Adam.
Your little sisters, how they labor!
We sybarites owe you a lasting debt.
To spurn the temptations of the flesh
Only to leave the world more toothsome --
Now, there's a parable to savor.

Brother Adam, redoubtable beekeeper,
You belong on the glazed pane of a chapel
Bedecked in your habit and your veil
Hard by the other miracle workers.
There hovers about you a burnished aura
Befitting a harbinger of ambrosia.

Brother Adam, Brother Adam,
When it comes to combs, you split the atom.
Every kingdom has its keys.
They've baptized your hybrids "superbees."
The heartbreaking millennium runs down,
But Brother Adam, your renown's a balm.

Brother Adam, I'm no believer.
When I'm not bedeviled, I'm beleaguered.
But consider your bees, in clover season —
Didn't they seem possessed by demons?
Let me grapple, let me fumble.
I may yet become your true disciple.

Presented by

David Barber is The Atlantic's poetry editor.

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