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The Keeper of Bees

Sadaf Halai

The poem and artwork were originally published in The Aleph Review, Vol. 5 (2021).

Now that I am the keeper of bees

only a slow stake of fire, that orange

grind of sound, will separate me from

their tiny bodies. Sometimes

they orbit me—a sun both temporary

and eternal—in which are multitudes with

many names. Not unlike a parent, I choose their

circumference, how far they get to roam.

Some nights, a mighty moon widens a grin into the sky

that is neither cruel nor kind, it just is,

and looks down upon my house of constant

sorrow, with its pesky little pets, each one

with mirrored eyes, the glass hexagons multiply into

a pale infinity. I am beginning to

understand, finally, what the simple things mean.

Only he who has tasted can know the meaning

of the word. What is honey if not honey?

What is sugar if not sweet? Like bits of

gibberish, a fragment of a sentence smoked out

and fractured at the root, their toil

is both exhausting and necessary, both plague and

deliverance, a recompense for a past

before all this became what is,

before I became what I became.

Busy Bees Have No Time For Sorrow by Sarah Mumtaz


Sadaf Halai received a Bachelor of Arts from Bennington College, a Bachelor of Education from York University, and a master’s in creative writing from Boston University. She has been published in Salmagundi, Ploughshares, Granta, Vallum, The Aleph Review and the Journal of Postcolonial Writing. One of her short stories was a finalist for the Glimmer Train’s Short Story Award for New Writers. Sadaf lives in Karachi.

About the featured artist: Sarah Mumtaz did her Bachelors in printmaking and later a Masters in visual arts from the National College of Arts (NCA), Lahore. During her Masters she experimented in a completely different medium, performance art. In 2011 she did her first performance Everything Will Be Ok, at the Zahoor ul Ikhlaq Gallery at NCA. She has taken part in many residencies and performance shows, including a collaborative photographic cover with Nashmia Haroon for the cover of The Aleph Review, Volume 3 (2019). Her most recent was It too Shall Pass in collaboration with Gillian Rhodes.


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