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Thursday, August 14, 2014


by Corinne Lee

“Earlier this summer, President Obama worried about the disappearing honeybee population and what it means for the nation’s food supplies. In a presidential memorandum, he announced plans for the creation of a ‘Pollinator Health Task Force’ to help save the honeybee. . . . Well, not to worry, amazing robotic bees the size of pennies might one day pollinate crops, ending all concerns about Colony Collapse Disorder within the next 15-20 years. At Harvard, researchers led by Robert Wood are developing RoboBees—a completely mechanical flying device loaded up with sensors and batteries that would fly from flower to flower, picking up and then depositing pollen the way a real honeybee would.” —Dominic Basulto, “New RoboBees show that the future of robotics is very, very small,” The Washington Post, August 7, 2014. (Image from a National Geographic video.)

As bees lose home
and gills stiffen     warming warming—

our hunger hardens
to a graspish Devonian

jig. Yakety yak, few talk
back and most rasp, grating forth

a decree: Come, warm as the dead,
let’s pick the bee-fish

from our breath like swill—
      and eat
                             and eat.

Author's note: This poem responds to last week’s news stories about the likelihood that RoboBees will pollinate crops within the decade, due to a lack of real bees. I was appalled by the exuberant stories about this possibility. It seems to me that our rapacious appetites—easy to witness in a scree of everything from overfishing to global warming—are now dangerously matched by technology’s equally rapacious desire to “remedy” the consequences. This complex zero sum game results in further losses, yet the best solution is simple and obvious: reduce consumption, quickly.

Corinne Lee’s poetry, fiction, and nonfiction have been published in dozens of literary magazines, and her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize several times. Her book PYX won the National Poetry Series and was published by Penguin. Lee was chosen in 2007 by the Poetry Society of America as one of the top ten emerging poets in the United States, and six of her poems were included in Best American Poetry 2010. She was educated at U.S.C., the Iowa Writers’ Workshop (fiction), and U.T. Austin (poetry).