“Transfiguration of the Beekeeper’s Daughter” by Todd Davis

Todd Davis


Because the bees flew toward light the color of honey, she couldn’t see them
but heard their hum, deep thrum of the colony come out of the hive, comb
dripping with loss and the smoke her father used to subdue, to pacify
the fear that might spur an attack. It wasn’t until her brother began to cry
that she noticed her hair was moving, undulating like water
easing from a rapids, alive with an energy she recognized

as the gentle buzzing of hundreds and hundreds of bees.
They swelled along the strands of her hair, remaking the small world
that floated in front of her eyes, as even more bees curled around her face.
She’d seen the woman at the fair who made a beard of bees
for the crowd of farmers and their families. She read about the love
and patience the woman told the newsman was necessary

as their legs and translucent wings crept and fluttered across
the tender flesh under the chin, fanning cheekbones, slipping
over the helix of the outer ear. Like earrings cut into the loveliest
shapes, with colors of burnished gold and copper,
the bees poured over the girl’s scalp, some finding their way down
the collarbone, onto arms and breasts, abdomens pulsing in time

to the electricity along the hind legs that captured the pollen
for the journey back to the hive. She found it impossible to hold still,
unless she thought of that bearded-bee woman, the affection
that transfixes the body while even more bees conceal the feet
and shins, the knees and thighs, until a girl vanishes, and in her place
a glistening, winged seraph takes to the sky.

from Rattle #45, Fall 2014
Tribute to Poets of Faith

[download audio]


Todd Davis: “I’m blessed because I’m allowed to write about the things I love—the woods and streams and animals that live in the 41,000 acres of forest in State Game Lands 108 and 158 above my house here in central Pennsylvania, as well as about the human animals that live inside my house, my dear wife and two sons. I confess I pray to God but struggle with what God might be. I see what I think is God in the faces of my wife and sons, in witnessing the births and deaths of the flora and fauna in the mountains where I live. And my faith is often shaken or crushed when confronted with the horrific tragedies that also comprise most any form of existence in the 21st century. Many sacred traditions have influenced the way I think and try to live, including Transcendentalism and Buddhism. I’d say more often than not I fail in trying to follow the precepts of such sacred traditions. Ultimately, the faith I’ve come to claim as my own is a form of Mennonite Christianity, whose focus upon peace, social justice, and simple living seems to cohere with the upside down kingdom Christ spoke of. I often explore theological conundrums through my poems because I’m not a person who does well with doctrine or orthodoxy. Thank the heavens for metaphor. I think our honest gestures toward mystery are far safer than literalism or any notion that we might use to confine or circumscribe the sacred. I hope many of my books are attempts at those kinds of honest gestures.” (website)

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