American Honey

For Lu Ellen Schafer

Escaping the ocean fog
that had darkened Berkeley
we walked behind the dry hills
to the blue sunlit waters of the East Bay
Municipal Utility District

where in a small grove of willows
we saw a stack of white hives
and a young beekeeper
who had come in his pickup truck
to gather the honey from his bees

He invited us to eat at will
the discarded fragments of honeycomb
oozing delicious warm honey
from their miraculous hexagons
of beeswax

as he explained how he himself
negotiated his yearly lease
with the bureaucracy of East Bay MUD                                              Municipal Utility District
just as others like him brought trucks of bees
to the huge citrus orchards of the south

I thought, How American!
not like that tsarist hunting lodge in Poland                                                        Białowieża
with its herds of European bison
where there were only keepers and peasants
and the peasants          when at last they were liberated
burned the place down

Blue waters green shore
How fitting this feast of natural honey
should be shared with you Lu Ellen
who with your gifts of gratitude
went from teaching English as a Second Language
to become a cultural consultant                                                                          Global Savvy
advising on global communication                                      

You also are America to me
having been blessed with the skill
to detect and somehow refine
the sweetness hidden
albeit sometimes very deeply
in every human being

Unlike Milosz who experienced
the cruelty of the twentieth century
one might think
sufficient to destroy all faith                                                            Milosz Year of the Hunter 37
and was visited in his dreams by monsters                                    Milosz Selected Poems 100
after all he had witnessed

from the city of Warsaw
flattened block by block into rubble
for no other reason than revenge
to the friendly fellow-prisoner
in a small heated room
taken out into the snow to be killed
for his overcoat

Or myself when afflicted with depression
from setbacks and losses in middle age
above all by the murder of my friend
Malcolm who had alerted me                                                                       Malcolm Caldwell
to America’s conspiratorial support
for the massacre of a million Indonesians

before striving to avert a war
between Vietnam and Cambodia
when for some reason he was sought out
by strangers in Phnom Penh
and shot dead in his bedroom

But then you came and restored to me
with your capacity for joy and laughter
on a long sunlit walk three decades ago
that glimpse of goodness on another level
without which
we cannot be who we are

From: Tilting Point, Word Palace Press, 2012.

Posted: Thu 20 Dec, 2012