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From: Vol.03 N.01 – How Humans Engage with Earth

When the bees came

by Heather Taylor Johnson

I heard it first, like the sun had heated up the earth so well the earth had begun to sing


a swarm of them, maybe three hundred outside my backdoor

a community of insects looking to rent our passionfruit vines

enquiring about space, about the smell of the place.


I contemplated a big stick or the garden hose then thought of honey

called pest control, asked the council what’s to be done with intimidating

squatters. Apparently if I did nothing it might pass, like the silent lover

who will not ask why her man turns away when the lights go out.

My children stayed indoors, my dog eating under close watch

those bees hunkering down in a brown cone of ownership

taunting the dried clothes, as if they would never again know

the safety of a chest of drawers.


At night I dreamt I comforted a friend who’d had bees of her own;

in the morning the bees were still there


their sound reminding me I can never own the home in which I dwell:

even the walls answer to mites, even the skirtings suffer mice.

Just last month it was the apricot tree.

How unimportant my two feet while birds pecked at the best of our fruit.

How pompous it was to say the apricots were even ours.


Even my dog could not razzle the bees from his favourite pissing spot.

Even my husband did not know where to stand.

The birds circled round, not knowing where to land.

Published: January 2016
Heather Taylor Johnson

Heather Taylor Johnson’s fourth book of poetry, The Dog’s Own Backyard, will be out from Five Islands Press in November 2016. She is the poetry editor for Transnational Literature and the editor of the forthcoming anthology The Fractured Self: Poetry of Chronic Illness and Pain. Her second novel, Jean Harley was Here, will be published by UQP in 2017.

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.