Emma Thomas Jones

The Company Sign

First it was honeybees. Thousands of them, coughed up
into tissue blooms: cylindrical workers & fat drones
more orange than yellow, curled like fetuses in pistils
of blood—thousands of them rummaging in your lungs

like your father rummaged for bolts in his toolbox
to fasten together wobbly parts of planes, thousands
of honeybees collecting on the sentient, pink walls
inside you—you coughed up the dead into tissues,

into your pillow as you slept, dreamless; kept
finding honeybees scattered stiff & weightless on the floor,
wings translucent as amber; kept coughing bees
into the shower basin, where water carried them

to the drain & the drain swallowed them anew;
you coughed up honeybees into the kitchen sink, where
they floated in pots crusted with refried beans, where
they got stuck in cream cheese—thousands, I mean

thousands of bees. Then came tufts of unidentifiable furs,
the cleft hooves of bison—first honeybees, then peacock
feathers, staring at you like many lidded eyes; bright salmon
plumes of flamingos, which studded your throat

with dense salt granules; globs of mucus that smelled
like perfume, you coughed up a baleen plate, its fringe
scraping your tongue like a toothbrush, you coughed up
a knob of blubber, a polar bear’s small, fuzzy ear—

a bone-white piece of the ice caps that, as it melted,
reflected rainbows as if mixed with oil; you hacked
photographs of your grandfather shaking hands
with President Kennedy, photos of him standing

in front of his company sign: Thomas Oil—then bees
surged up again & with them blood as black as tar,
or tar as red as blood. You coughed up a tooth, root
& all, stared at it in your palm as you tongued the absence

left in your mouth—then out came your tongue, longer
than you could have ever imagined, & your uvula
followed, strange & slick as an eel; finally the lungs
themselves tore out, one by one, & were hung

from your mouth by a rope of trachea the grayish
purple of dawn. They pulsated & dripped honey,
yes, honey—& you stood doubled over, the weeping
willow in your grandmother’s yard, stood awesomely still

as the living bees fortified your body in honeycomb,
climbed softly over your eyes & threaded your hair
with pollen, gentle as mothers; as your lungs expanded
& held shape around the infinite whirr.

Emma Thomas Jones, also known as E. Thomas Jones, is a queer poet from Ellijay, GA who graduated from the University of Arkansas with an MFA in Creative Writing. She was the recipient of the 2018 Lily Peter fellowship and the 2019 C. D. Wright/Academy of American Poets Prize. She has been published or is forthcoming in The Southern Review, NELLE, and others.