Wednesday, April 30, 2008


Being Stung By A Bee on the Lexington Avenue Local
John Hollander

Ouch! etcetera
Aside, and then likewise the
Conclusion that I

Had indeed not been
Stabbed in the left shoulder with
A knitting needle

By some demented
Wretch whose misery I'd be

Too angry to spare
Any real sympathy for
(Though I knew too well

Life had undone so
Many) sitting in the jammed
Car heading uptown

Through the acutely
Nonrural subway tunnel:
Said conclusion drawn

From a subsequent
Nonmechanical humming
In my ear accompanied

By an actual glimpse
Of the creature who would not
Live long buzzing off,

As it were and as
A matter of fact as well—
What some idiot

Of the literal
Might mean by rus in urbe...
All of those aside,

It was only weeks
After that I realized
That the very (most

Nonliteral) point
Of the sting was that the thought
Buzzed through my mind some

Days later that I
Was as one who, once stung by
A gold-banded

Bee in a fable,
Might have thereupon acquired
As a gift—not from

Apollo himself,
But from one of his nine girls—
A peculiar kind

Of wisdom: but of
Which sort, and from which of them—
Which of the Muses—

Let alone what tied
That bunch to that misplaced bee
(Poor lost bee! I had

No anger for her
As I might have had for the
Knitting-needle nut)

And what deep cosmic
Questions had hung on this I
Could not imagine.

But although with no
Gift nor Muses nor indeed
An available

Apollo, I would
Come to conclude that even
The subsequent brief

Sting of the sudden
Awareness of them and their
Moot irrelevance

Was as much of a
Gift from those nine sisters as
Is ever given.

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