In early October along the river’s edge,

deer hooves have printed the mud

with quotation marks, although

they had nothing to report. They drank

the cold water in silence and

slipped back into the woods.

It’s not yet five o’clock

but the sun is already stumbling sideways

and falling behind the Wisconsin treeline,

rays flailing into the sneeze-weed –

and there, stopped in time –

bees upon bees, beetles, caterpillars

frozen in place, stunned by cold

as they sought pollen,

nibbled leaves,

wove cocoons.

Two honeybees on either side

of the head of the ragged flower

with petals like shabby yellow slippers

hold on for dear life,

black eyes locked across the head of the flower,

legs holding the dusty chalice

as if tipping it back,

tongues buried deep,

no thoughts of cocoons, of shelter, of tomorrow –

neither the pollen nor the cold their undoing,

and really who can say whether they are truly


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