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Held and Ramsey


For Hamza Ali al-Khatib



            A thirteen-year old boy tortured and killed in Syria. He kept homing pigeons.


From my father’s roof I rise, circling

the loss I cannot gather with these permeable wings.


The bridge from pigeon to dove,

the broken body of a child.

From obedience to unruly honor,

the broken body of a child.


From this day forward the words

I carry will be mine alone,

home or elsewhere.

Words lifted into fury,

legs folded and burned but

still unbanded.



Colony Collapse Disorder



The sun is going down, beautiful winged sister.

But this night you will not look toward the hive.

This night, spread out in an isolation

conducted by fate, nectar and the wind,

you and yours will spill a testament into the wet grass.


Alone from her chamber a queen will wander

out into the desert beyond hierarchy, and die.


I will stay with you for a while.

Tell me of empty combs.

I will tell you of powerless words.


Compañera, they no longer read what we write upon the walls

as the centrifuge spins our sweetness against the steel.

The smell of a vacant hive hangs about our words.

We have forgotten how to worry power.


I will pass this night with you sister

until you speak deep surrender into the soil,

though it is hard to see you end.

Your rage unspent.

Your sting — bayonet sharp — unused.


When you have passed and the dawn comes I will go back.

I am not ready to lie with you just yet.

Rage unspent.

Words — bayonet sharp — unused.


Peleg Held was a former member of Voices in the Wilderness as well as several other failed campaigns for basic human decency. He is a carpenter in Portland, Maine where he lives with his partner and children, (primate and other).



To Kill the Bees



“If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would only have four years of life left.”

            –Albert Einstein


Dressed in camouflage,

Like soldiers,

We hunted bumblebees in the back yard.

We would chase them

From the cement basement lip of the little red house

where my parents tried to grow strawberries,

all the way across the clover patch that lined the driveway.

I guess it was only a few adult steps, really.

But to us it seemed like a wide stretch of terrain:

A battlefield occupied by the enemy.

My best-friend Andrew and I—we shared the very same birthday, us two—

We’d gather up rocks and sticks that felt like logs

—like battering rams in our child hands–

And we’d gather our giddy kid courage, hiding behind the gutter-pipe:

a commando team on a mission

to kill the bees.


We’d count to Three and then we’d yell “Charge!” and aim as we ran and we’d throw our load clumsy in

the general direction of the bee-speckled clover, our sticks and stone bombardment tumbling into the

air buzzing with adrenaline and we’d keep on running—breathing hard—right back behind the house

and across the yard, far away and safe from bumblebee counter-attack.


“Did we get one?”

Recovering, huddled, keeping our distance

We’d squint to survey the damage.

Then we’d scour the woods, to gather more sticks and stones.


I can’t confirm that we ever actually killed any.

Maybe we did. Maybe we didn’t.

We certainly tried.

We didn’t count the corpses.

But crouched against the house we convinced ourselves that

we had at least sent those bees a message,

one those intruders would not soon forget.


High on a weird kind of hunter’s rush.

We were warriors,

Committed to the cause: defending home.


The bees, of course, always came back.

I think we assumed they would.

This was a war that would go on forever: kids and bees,


like Indian and buffalo (though we weren’t out to eat them).


Somehow we never got stung.

Nor did we break any toes.

The bees tolerated our childish, silly game.

Or maybe we just got lucky.


But ever since, I’ve had the creeping feeling that the bees

would have their revenge.




The sound of apocalypse, the scientist says,

may not be that of a meteor hitting the earth, after all.

Not a volcano erupting in downtown LA.

Not a giant wave crashing on all coasts at once.

Not a hundred hydrogen bombs exploding.

It may not be a sound at all

But a silence

where the buzz of bees wings

used to



For it’s not just little kid hands and little kid weapons anymore;

The biggest of the big adults are in this campaign:

With bottom-lines for battering rams

and blow-torches to light up their blind forward charge–

Crouching at desks beneath green-smiling logos

they’re armed to the teeth

with genetically modified pest-repellant corn

to feed the cattle,

and real estate contracts sharper than any stick.

Their workers idle home tearing through burgers on stalled highways,

radios buzzing, tail pipes locked in traffic;

Pumping out: Progress.


Caught in the electromagnetic maelstrom,

The worker bee, famous for her sense of direction

Loses her way.


Left to queen and drone,

Colonies collapse.

(Hive temperature goes haywire, infestation spreads, pupa starve.)


Three decades on, the forces have shifted:


Bees don’t always come back.


And they have the message for us.




A battle still rages in the clover patch…


This time I’m on the side of the bees.


Joseph G. Ramsey is a teacher, writer, scholar, and activist who lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.  He co-edits Cultural Logic: an Electronic Journal of Marxist Theory and Practice,, with a special issue on “Culture and Crisis” due out in June 2011.  Joe is also a participant in the Kasama Project,, and can be reached at  Selections of his writings are available at




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