I wrote this as a gift for my father. It’s a true story from his life.

Rabble's Bilateral Bee

Siblings and cousins and off-sprung and friends!
Come hear my sweet song of strange fate;
Of triumph and loss, arrears and amends,
And justice just five decades late.

Kericho school stood under African skies
In the heart of the Kenyan Rift Valley.
Its acres of fields stretching out on all sides,
Were a haven for hunters most kali.

For those meadows were stalked by ferocious young sprogs
Chasing insects, their passion and hobby
And this pack, snaring bugs with the zeal of starved frogs,
Included one youngster named Robbie.

One day came a bee extra-easily snared.
O'erhead, in circles misguided
It droned through the air looking drunk and impaired
Its flying distinctly lopsided.

A mouth-breathing chap, somewhat lacking in charm,
Thought to capture himself a new pet.
Snagged the bee from above with a sweep of the arm;
Pulled it down, and gazed into his net.

"It's a horror! A monster! A half-and-half freak!"
Said its snotty-nosed captor. "Who made you?
"What cruel kind of god would form something so bleak?"
"I say," said our Robbie, "I'll trade you."

Young Rob was quite chuffed with his oddball new prize.
The bee was as strange as it seemed;
One half black and white, t'other red, smaller-sized
Split in twain top to tail, down the seam.

But when sharing his catch he was met with paralysis,
From teachers indifferent or dopey;
Till Headmaster suggested "Send it for analysis
To the museum in far-off Nairobi."

The curator wrote, "An extremely rare find!
Half-male half-female mutant, so strange!
We'll keep it for our collection, I'm sure you won't mind;
We'll send you some butterflies in exchange."

Robbie wrote, "I’m delighted that you've solved my case,
"And thanks for the work that you've done.
"But I don't want to trade; send my bee back, post-haste!"
Response, I'm afraid, came there none.

Robbie wrote them once more, then again, and again,
But faced an indelible truth:
When adult minds conspire, they o'erpower children
That's the grim impotency of youth.

Young Robbie grew up, became full-grown Rob,
Or "Rabble" to sisters and brothers;
Lived in England and Cali, traveled the world
Had three daughters (with two different mothers).

And it seems that perhaps the strange bee was foreshadowing
A passion for mutated genes;
For Rob studied science, obsessed with unraveling
The mysteries of DNA and proteins.

Time marches onward, and years waxed and waned
Abundant with grand new discoveries,
But the back of Rob's mind was restless, untamed,
For he never forgot his poor borer bee.

In his twenties he’d gone to Nairobi himself.
"Where's my bee?" he’d exclaimed, wildly curious.
But no sight of his insect could be found on their shelf
"Must have lost it," they claimed. Rob was furious.

While living in London, irony tolled:
Beetles munched through his insect collection
"If I still had my bee, it would be full of holes,"
He admitted; but still felt disaffection.

In 2006, ‘thoon sibs flew Kenya Air
And while wandering about, Rob said "Biv--oh!
You see that bee there? I’d one once, far more rare!"
(In the bushes, Dub peed on a hippo.)

But then! One fine morn in the Los Altos Hills
Under skies most incalculably blue
Rob sipped at his chai, while Pip flipped through the bills,
Murmured, "Hmm, this letter's for you."

And oh, best beloveds, what wonders unfurled
From that packet, so plain and so white?
Two papers dropped out, he opened them flat
And saw a familiar sight.

His bee! His bee! His wondrous bee!
“Gynandromorphism In Insects”
Penned for the Department of Zoology;
Mr. Laban Njoroge wrote the text.

His bee! His bee! His half-and-half bee!
Though surprised, Rob was over the moon
And there in the words, writ for all eyes to see:
"Discovered by R. Arathoon."

And so fifty years later, avenged is that tween,
Justice served; which perhaps goes to show
The truth that emerged from '64 to '14:
If you love something, never let go.

X. nigrita - Copy.jpg


Dear Robbie,

What a wonderful story! Justice has been done albeit 50 years late.

Borer bees at Kenjockety had an unpleasant life if they lived near the clothes line. They used to bore tunnels into the posts, right through so there was an "entrance" and an "exit". We would extract them by poking them with a knitting needle to encourage them into a jar at the end of the tunnel. When we had collected about eight of them we would put the lid on the jar, shake the jar violently, whip off the lid and then run like hell!

Lots of love



Header illustration by Jan Pienkowski, from A Necklace of Raindrops