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Special N.01 – Martin Harrison Special Issue

Hymnal / Wild Bees

by Judith Beveridge

 i.m. Martin Harrison


As the water scats over pebbles, as the creek thins

and trickles, there’s a sound that seems pirated from a flock

of seed-gathering parrots and a muster of hot-gospelling crows.


Along the mud, spoonbills scribble, their bills as frenetic

as compass needles trying to orienteer quick passage.

It’s the egrets I watch most — poised, quiet as Gilbertine nuns,


who with naked feet, seem about to step along a corridor

and enter their prayer cells. I don’t come here often —

there are spiders, ticks, thick-bellied snakes, and toadstools


as bloodless as the fingers of morticians’ gloves.

Once I saw a headless possum, and a pit bull mauling a lizard

it had clawed out from the dampness of a log.


There are trails of bull ants talking chemically and incessantly

to each other, bits of repeating code, and where

the melaleucas leak tannin into the runnels, you’d swear


it was a spill of beef’s blood. But sometimes I like to come

and notice how the spore-cases of the fruiting bracken

are like hemmings of brown wool, or to smell the leaf rot


curated along the path by a team of hard-working

organisms. Mostly, I come to watch bees fly around

the high heat of their hive and swarm their weight


towards the gum blossoms in a light soot of yellow.

Today, I see that the limb housing the hive has fallen,

shattered. Some bees lie trapped in the spill. Some bees


will have fled with the queen. This hive, once a murmuring

blood-warm gourd is silent, and I’ll never see again

the bees’ among the wildflowers, or see them busy


in the depths among the stamens, moving from cup

to cup as though they were flames lighting candles.

I’ll never hear their lingering vibrato like a mind enamoured


of its own music, getting right each thought’s pitch and hum,

its bearing and its course. Bees no longer alive, or high

in their hive, no longer making clear elaborated nectar.

Published: August 2015
Judith Beveridge

is the author of six collections of poetry, most recently Devadatta’s Poems and Hook and Eye: a selection of poems. She first became friends with Martin Harrison in 1979 when he was caretaker at the Quaker meeting house in Sydney and they maintained a strong friendship until his death in 2014.

An Australian and international
journal of ecopoetry and ecopoetics.

Plumwood Mountain Journal is created on the unceded lands of the Gadigal and Wangal people of the Eora Nation. We pay our respects to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and to elders past, present and future. We also acknowledge all traditional custodians of the lands this journal reaches.