The undertaker bee 

Scientists say the undertaker bees don't get better with experience,

neither do they work well together


dead bodies need

to be dropped from the hive


there are no carts

stretchers on wheels

no orderly queues


she can’t figure

the way to haul

the dead to the door  


she consults her manual –

the carrying positions

of thorax and wing


her low hum is carried

as she reads in the waxy gloom –

syllable by syllable

the whole hive over hears –

the single-shoulder carry

the fire-man’s lift

the blanket pull

Frankie McMillan is the author of five books, the most recent of which, 'The Father of Octopus Wrestling and other small fictions' was listed by Spinoff as one of the 10 best NZ fiction books of 2019. She co- edited 'Bonsai : best small stories from Aotearoa New Zealand' (CUP, 2018). Her poetry and flash fiction appears in national and international journals and anthologies, notably, Best NZ Poems, 2012 and 2015, 'Flash Fiction International', 2015 (WWW Norton) and 'Best Small Fictions', 2017 (Braddock Books).