Poem for my wife


you and I know best where honey comes from
the throbbing body              the hidden sting
and it happened you did not hesitate to feed the bee
crawling sluggishly to the lace at your hem
as though you were the largest flower ever
which is a comparison of some merit    my gross orchid     
colossal peony        tremendous gardenia      
I could go on       don’t blush so
it is a treasure to me      that you are always lifting 
your ruddy face     and your skirts      to the sun         

proceeding with a blossom’s sense of duty
you lifted the lost forager on your fingers
guessed at her mood from the flex of her antenna
and pulsing abdomen      you mixed her a sip of sugar water
then sent her on the breeze             later we discussed
our admiration of bees     their downy striations
their hardy protestant work ethic    though on principle
we did not agree with the rigidity     of their class system 

and it seems neither did she     our honeybee returned to us
days later        as a sort of woman      her hands full of honey
nearly solid in its comb         and a clotted choir of her old swarm       
humming their perplexity        as she came     
shaking her lovely lower body
in a dance of gratitude        

she had not yet mastered speech          
though we could not doubt her story as we understood it
Melissa      for this was the name we gave her
was visibly unused to reliance on pumping lungs      
her organs no longer awash in hemolymph     
and her too few limbs seemed hardly able to grip 
without their barbs      though need I say 
what she missed most dearly were the wings

they were still attached when she arrived
shimmering chitin grown proportional to her human torso but
even with those muscles rippling like a horse’s flank 
you could see the wings were so heavy          
they dragged her back         to what she had once been              
and the veins in them      like wrought iron
castle gates or dense black brambles 
half horrifying       though the wings held the evening 
light as well as any church window   
or better       if you say so   

we did what any well meaning couple would do
didn’t we darling      we took her in      clad the little lady    fed her 
sweet tea and shortbread         prepared the good quilt for the spare bed
and as she was sleeping           sharpened the pruning shears

we unpacked our traditional beekeeping garb
from our wedding        billowing in linen and leather 
with woven wicker baskets over our faces
and a soothing spell of smoke       a simple but pleasant fragrance
of charring pine needles     egg cartons      and dry manure
the act itself took longer than expected
yet Melissa made hardly a sound of complaint          
as each wing finally came loose at the stump
and rustled down the side of the mattress

in fairness our poor thing never said a great deal       
at first when she opened her mouth         golden nectar drooled out      
then later a pour of darker liquid    thick and sour
though she would choke a word out upon request 
and when the whim moved her
she had a knack for prophecy     suddenly trilling such things as
every summer will be the hottest summer yet
for ever and ever amen unwinding the bar graphs
on their incline like the thriving reeds whistling 
from the estuary that will swallow your willful stupidity 
I hope to see all this the sea taking apart your house 
board by rotting board         and sucking you sickos down 
at that time we found it prudent not to take such outbursts too seriously
if her eyes started to glow          from behind their many facets    
we simply excused ourselves from polite company
           this being before all the business with the venom

though in a way I miss that too    no dear
I don’t regret how you ended it           come   let me clasp you
it brought us together           forgive me
my sentimentality        of course this was all such a long time ago
but sometimes I wake again to the angry hive like singing hail 
throwing their thousandfold bodies against the windows      
and you are still pulling 
greasy hanks of her black and blonde hair 
out of the shower drain         even now     while I set about
adding the plague of peacocks 
that have descended so iridescently on our settlement
to the regional council’s pest management plan 

The Conservationist


the farmer’s daughter unbuttons old red overalls 
rolls the sleeves around her waist 
tanning topless on the quad bike 
her skin is tussock gold 
dewy with glyphosate

high priestess of the mountain range 
she holds her spray wand aloft 
incantates death diluted from concentrate
that drenches nodding thistle heads 

toxins slick the silvery filigree of spines 
bees unlatch from crimson eyes 
spin away dizzy 
jewel wings dripping penetrant 

the farmer’s daughter surveys the back blocks 
grazed stubble infested with dread rosettes
the thistles’ soft explosions aloft

above the bike’s low gear grumble 
and spray pump’s pulsing 
there rises
a mewling from the tree stumps

the farmer’s daughter steeped in honeydew reek amid black beech 
digs between the crumbled roots 
loam seething through holes in her garden gloves

four kittens huddle in a deadwood knot 
so new their irises still glow pale indigo
the farmer’s daughter catches the slowest 
its tiny screams shards of sunlight 
claws little crystal thistle prickles 
ripping through her gloves 
but now she has the kitten in her hands

what then for the pest  
the mere weight of quick breath 

the mother cat and the other kittens blurs already 
fled into the bush  

this soft furred vermin 
flawless awful
psycho killer in waiting
but not yet 
for now it is barely the frantic whirr 
of an unhinged heartbeat clutched in a palm
kneading its captor for comfort

what can she do 
in these valleys 
too precious with birds 
to let go any fanged thing

the correct course of action   
as usual
is to kill

but the stream has gone dry   
no puddles even for drowning 
and she is too soft 
to swing it on a rock

besides the farmer’s daughter has lost her faith in the hardness 
of stones / of skulls

the kitten’s pupils are slit to blindness 
thin and useless as its scratches

the farmer’s daughter sculpts a nest from a beanie 
snarled with burrs in the bike’s front toolbox 
the kitten keens as she closes the lid

the farmer’s daughter sloshes 
like the hundred poison litres in the yellow plastic tank behind her
she is a turbid mix 
of murder and croon 
grim with the handlebars 
thumbing the clutch 

hands flexing restless
to snap necks / to caress 

the farmer’s daughter heads for home at hellraised speed 
someone at home will know what to do 
dust plumes dull her scarlet hems  
clinging to the mountain 
each gully and precipice 
only smears in her periphery 

shingle arcs in drifts 
gravel clatters down the steep slip 
ferns whip her shins to bruises 
the spray wand falls 
behind the bike 

a golden thread 
a trailing trace of wasted wetness

she turns to spot it 
the kitten cries from the glovebox

the bike goes over and over 
until it stops 


Rebecca Hawkes is a clot of pure love forced to live in a human shaped body which she now has to take care of for the rest of its life (ew!!!!!). She paints nude witches and radioactive lambs, writes about queer rural idyll and moody werewolves, and edits the journal Sweet Mammalian. Her first poetry chapbook ‘Softcore Coldsores’ can be found in AUP New Poets 5 which launched in 2019 to revitalise the series. You can also find her work in various journals like Minarets, Scum, and Landfall, or at her vanity mirror