Skip to main content
By Heid E. Erdrich

Late summer, late afternoon, my work

interrupted by bees who claim my tea,

even my pen looks flower-good to them.

I warn a delivery man that my bees,

who all summer have been tame as cows,

now grow frantic, aggressive, difficult to shoo

from the house. I blame the second blooms

come out in hot colors, defiant vibrancy—

unexpected from cottage cosmos, nicotianna,

and bean vine. But those bees know, I’m told

by the interested delivery man, they have only

so many days to go. He sighs at sweetness untasted.


Still warm in the day, we inspect the bees.

This kind stranger knows them in intimate detail.

He can name the ones I think of as shopping ladies.

Their fur coats ruffed up, yellow packages tucked

beneath their wings, so weighted with their finds

they ascend in slow circles, sometimes drop, while

other bees whirl madly, dance the blossoms, ravish

broadly so the whole bed bends and bounces alive.


He asks if I have kids, I say not yet. He has five,

all boys. He calls the honeybees his girls although

he tells me they’re ungendered workers

who never produce offspring. Some hour drops,

the bees shut off. In the long, cool slant of sun,

spent flowers fold into cups. He asks me if I’ve ever

seen a Solitary Bee where it sleeps. I say I’ve not.

The nearest bud’s a long-throated peach hollyhock.

He cradles it in his palm, holds it up so I spy

the intimacy of the sleeping bee. Little life safe in a petal,

little girl, your few furious buzzings as you stir

stay with me all winter, remind me of my work undone.


Heid E. Erdrich, “Intimate Detail” from The Mother’s Tongue. Copyright © 2005 by Heid E. Erdich. Reprinted by permission of Salt Publishing.

Source: The Mother’s Tongue (Salt Publishing, 2005)

Poet Bio

Poet Heid E. Erdrich, a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe, was born in Breckenridge, Minnesota, and raised in nearby Wahpeton, North Dakota, where her Ojibwe mother and German American father taught at the Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding school. With her sister, the writer Louise Erdrich, she founded and lead the Turtle Mountain Writing Workshop and The Birchbark House, a fund to support indigenous language revitalization efforts. Since 2010, Erdrich has directed Wiigwaas Press which publishes Ojibwe (Anishinaabe) language books, films, and other media. Erdrich teachesat Augsburg College and lives with her family in Minnesota.

More By This Poet

More Poems about Activities

Browse poems about Activities

More Poems about Nature

Browse poems about Nature

More Poems about Relationships

Browse poems about Relationships