—for Susan Carpenter
Was it two years ago, just after the scheduled return
of red-winged blackbirds, we leaned over bumblebees
in the raingarden bed where beebalm and echinacea
would bloom again in the summer ahead, trying to count
the stripes on their abdomens on a March day of 40 degrees?
Our feet slipped in snow-melt, all of us in the faith that food
and warmth waited in the wings of lengthening days,
and we asked which of 36 possibilities (half male, half
female) this early visitor might be. We learned to stop time,
photograph visits too fast for our inexpert eyes to see,
inspect at leisure whether this one might be a rare
and vanishing species of Rusty Patch or the common one
we conclude—Bombus impatiens, only the first segment
yellow—spot, not stripe, on the thorax–and it makes us
believe simultaneously in our luck and our losses
in the spring that will be arriving soon.
Robin Chapman’s tenth book, The Only Home We Know (Tebot Bach, 2019), celebrates the natural world and mourns its disappearance; the Council for Wisconsin Writers awarded it honorable mention for the Edna Meudt Poetry Book Award in 2020. Her poems have appeared recently in the Alaska Quarterly Review, Appalachia, Hudson Review, Rewilding: Poems for the Environment, and Half Way to the North Pole (Door County Collective). She is recipient of Appalachia‘s Helen Howe Poetry Award.