Wednesday, August 11, 2010

bees, bedbugs, and process of making gold

S E C O N D   D I D A C T I C   P O E M

The honey of man is
the task we're set to:     to be
'more ourselves'
in the making:
                       'bees of the invisible' working
in cells of flesh and psyche,
          'la grande ruche d'or.'
            the makings of the
                     is carried upon the
corrupt tongues of
mortal insects,
fanned with the wisps of wing
                   'to evaporate
excess water,'
                    enclosed and capped
with wax, the excretion
of bees' abdominal glands.
Beespittle, droppings, hairs
of beefur: all become honey.
Virulent micro-organisms cannot
survive in honey.
                             The taste
the odor of honey:
each has no analogue but itself.

In our gathering, in our containing, in our
working, active within ourselves,
slowly the pale
dew-beads of light
lapped up from flowers
can thicken,
darken to gold:

honey of the human.

--Denise Levertov

* * *

I am eating a ripe nectarine and the baby inside me is kicking. I am sitting at my desk, sunlight falling across my left shoulder and onto my glass paperweight, and I feel at peace: all my gathering and containing might thicken to gold after all. Which, considering the panic I viewed the world with yesterday when it first occurred to me that we might have a bedbug problem, is considerable. We still very well may have a bedbug problem, and I am waiting for the guy with the dog to call back. It's the standard way to detect bedbugs in NYC--you pay $300 for a guy with a trained canine to come, and the to dog sniffs them out with 95% accuracy. At our old condo building near Central Park there was a tenant with bedbugs and a cute beagle named Russell came and declared our apartment free and clear. Of course, at our old condo building we didn't have to pay anything, the management company took care of it and made sure no one in the building had bedbugs. Yesterday I was longing for that building, with its new wood floors, smooth walls, and general lack of bugs. I can't remember ever seeing a bug there. Here it's another story.

Ever since the lady who lived above us moved out and construction began, our apartment has been overrun with bugs. Ladybugs swarm our living room floor lamp. I killed a worm larvae inching across our bed yesterday. The night before I had Charles kill a mammoth flying beetle that appeared in my office. Let's not mention that scouting roaches that have appeared (and only a month ago I paid a roach exterminator.) And then, over the weekend, Ike began sporting a number of patches of bites on his arms and legs. Yesterday it occurred to me that these might not be mosquito bites he got at the park. He went to sleep with two bites and woke up with five more. I searched his room for a spider to no avail. Then I looked at photos of bedbug bites online. A perfect match. Ughhh. My lovely pre-war three-bedroom with river views went from being a haven to a hellhole filled with blood-sucking baby biters.  I was suddenly very itchy.

Charles is not happy either, primarily because treating a bedbug infestation can be very expensive: at least $1000, not including all the washing and dry cleaning to be done. Alba and I stripped all the bedding in Ike's room yesterday and moved the bed, and this morning he woke up without any new bites. But I am still waiting for the dog guy to call. Meanwhile the pounding goes on upstairs, opening up little cracks along the seams of our walls, accompanied by the sound of plaster and Lord-knows-what-else tumbling down inside them. Sending all the little creatures down to us.

I have been feeling industrious lately. Perhaps the nesting instinct combined with the effects of reading Kristin Lavansdatter, set in fourteenth century Norway. Kristin is always sewing, weaving, spinning, or brewing ale. After reading about hot steaming bowls of porridge for the 30th time, I went to the kitchen and made some. Yesterday I filled the house with pitchers of water when the plumbing was turned off due the construction, and it felt almost like a treat not to have running water. Of course, Kristen might have had bedbugs along with the maggots in her straw bedding and that doesn't sound like a treat. Nor did the excruciating birth of her first son, where the men milling about waiting kept referring to her likely death.

But nevermind. I am thinking more along the lines of sewing some curtains with an electric sewing machine I'll buy on e-bay. Maybe making some throw pillows--or at most industrious--a little dress for the new baby out of material from the expensive shirt that Charles accidentally tore this weekend. Lord knows I think it's a grave hardship that I don't have a dishwasher or a washer and dryer in my apartment, I can't imagine having to spin, dye, weave and then sew all my own clothes.

Which brings me back to the poem above, about the task we're set to. To create--and to make ourselves "more ourselves" in the process--what is sweet, fragrant, and thick from all the minute gatherings of life. Lapping up from among the little things, making dinner or washing the dishes by hand, the dew-drops of light. "Active in ourselves" which reminds me of the Theotokos, and she kept all these things, pondering them in her heart, and turning them into gold.

{ p o e t r y  w e d n e s d a y }


Kris Livovich said...

I am so glad for your comments along with your poetry. I would not have connected this poem with Mary and all she opened herself up to. But after reading your post, it was fitting.

Julia said...

This poem is really amazing.

I'm sorry you have bedbugs. I also have been thinking a lot about the Middle Ages as I read Kristin Lavransdatter, and have actually thought that it would be much more preferable at that time to live in a cold climate, like Norway, where critters either die or go dormant for a good part of the year.

I also sewed both curtains and pillow cushions during my pregnancy with Elsa. I was so industrious. Now I look at them and think: did I really do that? But I'm really glad that I did it while I had the will and energy.

Nostalgia said...

This post reminded me for some reason, how many years ago, when I was about 9 and was reading "Peppy Long Stockings" where she seems to so often make tea with some brioches, I felt that nothing in life is more desirable and perfect, than be sitting under (or on the) tree, sipping hot tea with some freshly made pastries. And till nowadays it's one of my most favorite things in life.
Also, I've been making lots of curtains lately - since moving into this new place. I believe, a good sewing machine makes sewing enjoyable.

Jenny Schroedel said...

Oh Amber,

I can't believe I missed this gorgeous post and poem! I love what you say here. I am experiencing this in so many ways in my own life, especially as I seek to grow more and more of our food. These things are changing me, for sure, and making me feel more alive. Even the ugly experiences--the war on roaches and rats, your war on bedbugs--all of it can be turned to gold. Thank you for reminding me of this today!