So very long ago
there were bumblebees here
slow and ponderous
like old World War II cargo aircraft
buzzing through the skies.

They loved the asters and the frostweed
the goldeneye and palafoxia.
In the prairies
the bluestem rose tall,
turning terra cotta in the cold.
The switchgrass massive and light,
interwoven with the fall air.
The Indiangrass bringing its yellow flames 
to the darkening colors of the autumn.

The big bumbly bumblebees
flew slow from blossom to blossom
slurping up nectar,
muddling in the pollen with their big bumbly feet, 
tracking it everywhere they flew,
to the joy and delight of the flowers.

They were here with their cousins, 
the solitary bees.
Ascetic, tiny, sipping like anorexics.
But still the pollen grains on their feet,
transferring them to new flowers 
to cycle life into the next season.

So very long ago
there weren’t any honeybees.
Those upstart European imports, soft,
needing amenities and care.
There were just the wild prairies
grown over ancient seas,
the savannah trees intermittent and burn-hardened.

Then the honeybees came
and elbowed their way into the frostweed and goldeneye
but still there was enough
and all lived together.

Then we came, European, soft, needing amenities.
And, too smart for our own good, we discovered too much
in the name of science and progress and commerce.
How to clear the land with the napalm of the bulldozers and shredders.
How to kill the weeds with carcinogens
that seeped their dark death to the innocent grasses.
How to kill the bees with neonicotinoids
and find their little bodies, stiff and dead, by the water.

The bumblebees grew fewer and fewer,
and as I tended my land, I found less and less of them,
buzzily muddling their way into the flowers.
But I gardened organic, banned the potent ugly toxins
on my little piece of land, and hoped.

In the last year or two, they have started to return.
All sizes: huge snuffling hogs of bumblebees
Medium moderate bumblebees
and even diminutive daintyish ones, though still
unmistakably squarish and bumbly.

The honeybees live here too, in their hive by the edge of the woods,
underneath the spinning fan sculptures.
But they do not fight the bumblebees 
or harass the little solitary ones.
There is goldeneye and aster enough for all, 
and frostweed enough even for the monarchs and emperors
when they migrate through.

It won’t be so significant when I am gone
but I love to think of the bumblebees
and hope I played a tiny part
in their going on.

—Elayne Lansford

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