Where the Stars Are Hived

Winner, New Ohio Review Poetry Contest
selected by Rosanna Warren

By James Lineberger 

Featured art: Beautiful woman portrait from Messiah by Samuel Johnson, LL.D

That Saturday, when The ABC’s
of Beekeeping arrived UPS,
he was already a very sick man, survivor
of several major surgeries, all of which were
successful, within limits, but what
could they do, all those
doctors and technicians, to halt the inevitable, which
he knew, of course, we all do, even in those
moments of temporary triumph
when we feel we have won something or other, when
that dratted parathyroid thing
gets plucked and dropped in the bucket, the scar artfully
hidden in a crease of skin, or the triple bypass pains have subsided
and become one of those historical blips
on the mind-screen, these and all the others
will have taken their toll, but when the book arrived
he was nonetheless grateful, knowing full well
he would never get around to the bees or a score
of other projects, but the pride was still there, and some
stubborn sense of accomplishment
that had nothing to do with the rest of his life, the marriages,
the lawyers, the pre-nuptials, and the money,
the money, all that goddamn money, and what did it mean,
any of it, next to this hillside filled with row
upon row of Silver Queen, and the praying mantids
and ladybugs, the chalcid wasps and the pungent
scent of the marigolds, how to speak
of these things or make anyone understand that the garden
is not a weapon against Death,
but a doorway to invite her in, a private place
where they can talk undisturbed
with a growing closeness and affection he never
dreamed possible,
he and this little girl in her denim coveralls with
the bear appliqué and the bottoms
rolled up, the way she holds his fingers in her tiny hand, and her shining face,
upturned, her lips parted in a daughter’s trusting smile.

James Lineberger wrote the book and lyrics for the first “American rock opera,” The Survival of Saint Joan. His screen adaptation for the Devery Freeman novel Father Sky was filmed by Twentieth Century Fox as Taps. His poetry has appeared in Prairie Schooner, Berkeley Poetry Review, Verdad, Boulevard, Hanging Loose, New York Quarterly, Oxford Magazine, Sonora Review, Seneca Review, Texas Review, and Verse.

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