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Same flowers, same bees

August 1, 2016

I don’t read a lot of contemporary poetry, and what I do read I don’t often like, but I’m oddly fascinated by this Franz Wright prose-poem, called “Bees of Eleusis”:

Unless a grain of wheat goes into the ground and dies, it remains nothing but a grain of wheat.
—John 12:24

The ingredients gathered, a few small red tufts of the dream spoor per sheaf of Demeter’s blonde wheat, reaped in mourning, in silence, ground up with the pollen and mixed into white wine and honey. These stored forms of light taken under the ground. Taken by mouth. First those who by birth hold in secret the word; then placed on the tongues of the new ones, into whose ears it is meant to be whispered. Word murdered, forgotten so long ago, placed as a kiss on the lips of the soon-to-be-no-longer breathing who mean to enter death with open eyes, with mouths saying Death, what death? We have no word for it in our country where the bride of a brighter oblivion reigns. Not the purple-haired god but the child queen, the raped girl, come back from the dead hand in hand with the child she conceived there, returned in a resurrected virginity, wind through green wheat. Present-day site of a minor refinery in Christ. Although by the tenth generation already the children of light (“in their dark garments”) had trampled and smashed and generally raped the two thousand years of this precinct and its holy meal, intolerable mirror. Men who’d designed and bowed down to a law derived from the sayings of one who appeared here to say that the law is abolished, it is too late, all that is over with. Men who bungled their way through the next eighteen centuries before finally descending into the earth themselves, and what they found there they used, and we thank you for destroying the destroyers of the world. And here at the end this is as good as any other entrance to the underplace, journey of the fallen leaf back to the branch, to the bees of Eleusis among olive blossoms, untroubled among crimson wildflowers. Four thousand years later: same flowers, same bees.

Franz Wright (1953-2015) was an American poet. I like this Denis Johnson quote about him: “[his poems] are like tiny jewels shaped by blunt, ruined fingers–miraculous gifts.” Though I’m not entirely convinced it’s true.

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