Little Mute Girl

Kristen Orser
with apologies to W.S. Merwin

She brushes her teeth with lemon and salt
and the boy next door calls her a sourpuss.

Once, the boy threatened to put a bee in her ear
and her mother promised this was a sign of affection.

The girl bought a bee box
to show the boy she understood him
and she loved him too.

She showed him the box, but never told him what it was.

The boy looked in the holes,
and put his ear to the box--
he waited for her to say something.

He couldn't hear her heart beating
and he didn't know her palms were sweating,
but he had seen her, earlier, through her bedroom window
lighting a candle next to her ear,
putting warm cabbage on her breasts,
and brushing egg whites in her hair-- 
he had assumed this was for him.

When she didn't say anything to him,
but sheepishly smiled, tilted her head to the right,
and offered the bee box again,
he started to understand that this was a gift.

And, like any young boy confronted with sweet love,
he developed the hiccups, broke out in blisters, and wet his pants.

Embarrassed, the boy smashed the bee box with his fist
and ran away.

The girl stood wrapped in bees.

And after she died, the boy who loved her but didn't know it,
rubbed her body with onions.