Three Poems by Catherine McGuire

Catching a Swarm

Despite variations, they all advise:
spray the clump with sugar water
so they can’t fly, then cut or shake
that living burl into your box –
a hive is best, a basket or cardboard box
will do. Get the Queen.
Always the key. You must capture
the heart of the hive, a tiny Persephone
descending to the dark of your desire.
If she’s there, the others – the ones you missed –
will queue up to enter
as the sonneteers flash their butts and wings
in a strange Rockettes-line at the door,
telling the rest of the group:
Come inside. We’re all here.

And experts say don’t worry about stragglers.
Get the clump and move the hive to the proper spot.
They would howl to see me pick up every twitching bee,
from grass or cloth or twig,
sweep or carry each one to the entrance.
No bee left behind.



Everything wears at everything else –
breeze rubs pollen, scatters seed; water smooths rock.
The tumbling sands slowly change the coastline.
Even mountains can’t claim eternity.

We carry our edges into the world
and they are rubbed smooth, or raw.

But look! Above my head, a broken, moss-furred twig
balances in holly
the whole summer.



A January fog hangs in the holly –
red berries dot shiny spiked green.
The ice tiaras have slipped down
the limbs, buds unsheathed.
Throughout the sodden garden
calendula, lavender, thyme, kale
huddle in sparse straw. Gophers raid
and favorites vanish – dirt mounds like graves
dot the yard. There is no peace
in the pieces – plans seem audacious,
premature. Seasons unreasonable now –
we have no guide; the past unhelpful.
Where will this new climate lead?
Comfrey and borage, their prickly furred leaves blackened,
will come back as surely as the gophers.
Birds swoop and scavenge as always –
they have no almanac; they do their best.
Below the mulch, slugs curl around their eggs,
the caterpillar army sleeps, unaware
that their ancient targets are stuttering, lulled
by weather as willful as any jihad.
They will wake too late,
or too early; they will hump along strange leaves,
searching for scents and shapes
that define their survival.
And our own.



Catherine McGuire is a writer and artist with a deep concern for our planet’s future. She has three decades of published poetry, four poetry chapbooks and a full-length poetry book, Elegy for the 21st Century (FutureCycle Press). A deindustrial science fiction novel Lifeline was just released by Founders House Publishing. Find her at


Photograph: Rock Bees, Anamalai Hills, India, by T.R. Shankar Raman. 

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