the baby shamrock on the window sill

You see quite a few photos from my father.  My mom–what do we ever hear about her? She’s the ground we stand on when we stand by the river’s edge.  She’s this baby shamrock on her window sill.  She’s the light and soil.

I’ve shared this poem before, but am sharing it now. What did we do last weekend when we got away? This:

Bees, Hauling and Otherwise

She guesses a bee can fly
five thousand miles in one day
and even though everyone
playing trivia at the family table
says she can change
her answer, Mom sticks to it.
Somewhere once she had heard
bees could change continents
in a day and ever after she wondered
how that’d be, except instead of a change
in geography she would chose

a change in circumstances
which she tells us while she putters
in the kitchen serving pie,
leaving each of us, mouths mid-gap,
to wonder what our mother/grandmother
would have wanted differently
until her second grandson conjures up the sound
of a bee flying at Mach 1, but we can’t
make a Z sound short enough
even after our youngest brother serves up tea
with honey. It’s freezing outside and
our gaming talk moves on to how hives
in Montana move south

every winter. Last month
a trucker called to tell our second brother
to be outside when he drove by
his office. He had something to show
him. The flatbed was loaded with twenty tons
of bees and when the truck stopped
a heat wave rose from the painted white hives,
the wave of heat altered the clear lines
where earth met sky,

where motion collided with stillness,
the same stillness overcomes Mom’s
kitchen, everyone in mid-chew,
in mid-wonder with forks stopping in midair
our collective breath suspending above
the kitchen table like cartoon balloons
rising from our mouths. Our brother nods
and explains how bees need to beat their wings
to keep their queen warm. It’s a long way
to California.

If you haven’t checked out the gorgeous, stirring journal, Escape Into Life, yet–you may want to click here to catch up on one of my favorite journals. And I am not just saying that because they published this poem and a few others of mine. 🙂 The art and photography are well worth the click. Trip. Click.


About redmitten

author of Cracking Geodes Open, Making Good Use of August, and The Peppermint Bottle. poetry editor for IthacaLit. website:

11 responses to “the baby shamrock on the window sill

  1. Sherry, Your words and your poem about your Mom bring tears to my eyes, warm tears, thinking of the love. Beautiful.

    • redmitten


      i don’t know why it is, but perhaps it is because i am so sure of my mom-i don’t have this need to preserve her in my words. she is the very earth for me. but now and then, i realize that by sharing her with others, her warmth and sureness can be spread even further.

  2. kmerrifi

    Sherry — One of your all-time best pieces. Thank you for sending me off into happy memories of my own mom.

    • redmitten


      oh my, thank you! i can never get enough of my mom. and to my family- oh my gosh, now all we have to do is say “bee” and all of us are “there” again.

  3. Katy

    that’s awesome about the bees! And now I wonder what your mom wanted to change, too!

    • redmitten

      katy- i wonder, too. i think we forget our moms are more than moms to us . . . not all of my family gathers well and so, those of us who do- gather round her more dearly.

  4. This poem is one of my favorites of yours. The whole thing moves like a bee – purposeful, busy, buzzy, seeming to move in many directions at once. And it leaves you wondering where it is going once it’s gone.

  5. i didn’t notice a date on this poem but i wonder if it was written before the bee colony collapse that occurred in 2011. i mention it because it only serves to underscore the existential sense i got from the lines about the children in the kitchen mid-gap, mid-chew with forks suspended in mid-air…and i can see the blurred line from the wave of heat where earth meets sky….stunning.

    p.s. bees are featured in the last two poems featured on Escape into Life…what elegant words, paired with images. i took in a breath at the juxtaposition of ducks in icy water and virginia woolf’s pockets being loaded with rocks…

    • redmitten

      amanda, the circumstances in this poem happened in the late fall of 2011 and although we didn’t speak about the colony collapse at the kitchen table right then, it was on a few minds. that blurred line- oh my. and thank you for reading the rest of the poems at EIL. the poem you mention was written to remind myself that what is going on in my head at times is far far less than what others are struggling with, specifically the man whose focus is so often on virginia woolf’s pockets. oy.

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