Honeycomb Tattoo- Ellen Austin-Li

Your brother posted a picture
of his tattooed arm: a stenciled
honeycomb, black hexagons
inked around his flexed bicep,
a math equation written in your hand
in a space between joined cells.
He said this tattoo commemorated
your birthday one year after your death.
I live six hundred miles away. I’ve never shown
my bee poems to him, or told anyone
how bees now seem like our family
to me—this improbable
hive of coincidence.
Then I learned the design
is from your own doodles
lifted from a scrap of paper
left on your desk,
as if you had spoken
from a place beyond us,
compelling me
to write these poems.

Ellen Austin-Li’s work has appeared in Artemis, Thimble Literary Magazine, The Maine Review, Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel, Rust + Moth, and other places. A Best of the Net nominee, she’s published two chapbooks with Finishing Line Press: Firefly and Lockdown: Scenes From Early in the Pandemic. She earned an MFA in Poetry at the Solstice Low-Residency Program. Ellen lives with her beekeeper husband in a newly empty nest, overrun with books, in Cincinnati, Ohio. Find her work @ www.ellenaustinli.me.

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