Robbing Day by Jenna Butler

Poem title: Robbing Day Poet name: Jenna Butler Poem: What is a country but a life sentence? –Ocean Vuong The mistake is in being certain of sweetness. That anything might be earned for keeps. Our arms welted ablaze through bleached cotton, suits and veils failing magnificently to block the bees’ distress. It’s August; it’s America. The field hospitals have shuffled off down the conduit of pandemic memory, the bodies sheaved, the workers plangent, a surfeit of alfalfa, tall yellow clover. What did they expect would happen? We are all of us open for business. Catch them midafternoon, distracted by the sun’s gauze, the first powdered goldenrod dawdling along the verge. The trick’s all in the movement. Come in slow, with a blitheness that belies how much they have to lose. Distract with smoke, with sugar. Finesse your opening line, a convincing patter. They’ve been aloft just long enough to be thoroughly sold on the engine of their own labor. Swap white cane for honey, dole out fat pads of candy, the hives left thinking themselves flush. That’s all it takes: a sweet prestige. Whisk something away with sleight of hand, return it seeming unchanged. A trick, a hive, a harvest, a country. As though our lives were worth the salt of their blood, even then. Note: A robbing day occurs when the frames of honeycomb are taken from distracted summer hives, replaced by white sugar solution or processed bee candy for the winter months. End of poem. Credits and bio: Copyright © Jenna Butler Dr. Jenna Butler (she/her) is an award-winning poet, essayist, and editor. She is the author of three books of poetry, Seldom Seen Road, Wells, and Aphelion; a collection of ecological essays, A Profession of Hope: Farming on the Edge of the Grizzly Trail; and the Arctic travelogue Magnetic North: Sea Voyage to Svalbard. Her newest book, Revery: A Year of Bees, essays about beekeeping, climate grief, and trauma recovery, was a finalist for the 2021 Governor General’s Literary Award in Non-Fiction and a longlisted title for Canada Reads 2023. As a BIPOC writer and grower, she lectures internationally on equitable land access and reciprocal relationships in farming. Butler is a retired professor of creative and environmental writing and an off-grid organic farmer in northern Treaty 6.