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by R. T. Smith

Hear R. T. Smith read this poem (in RealAudio):

RA 28.8, RA 14.4

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When the keeper has died,
whose hands have touched
so much honey,

the village will convene
to elect a successor
and to remember

the sweetness of his voice,
his dependable hymns,
the spell of smoke

and the hush just after.
While the elders
resist the old rhythms

of grief, one will speak
of the ancient belief --
that the bee-father's demise,

kept secret, could cause
the death of the hives
in the coming winter.

Then the question will rise
in a nervous murmur:
Who will tell the bees?

R. T. Smith is the editor of Shenandoah,a literary quarterly, and the author of Trespasser (1996), a collection of poems.

Copyright © 1998 by The Atlantic Monthly Company. All rights reserved.
The Atlantic Monthly; May 1998; Sourwood; Volume 281, No. 5; page 76.

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