came from nowhere, descended in a dark swarm,
surrounded the stacked wooden boxes.
Zinging hums in heated crescendo—
they crawled over the surface, crowding white paint
to brown, clustered in combat with our bees,
trying to fight their way into the home hive.
We stood at the window and watched, helpless
to halt the carnage, to save those destined to die.
Time passed before we could approach our losses
and look at what remained. My beekeeper
husband lifted the lid while I stood by,
trembling. Dead bodies were piled
beside the hive—worse, they had stolen
the honey. All that was sweet—gone.
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.