Two poems for this Monday:
by Eve Alexandra
Be careful if you take this flower into your house. The
peony has a thousand lips. It is pink and white like the lady’s
skirt and smells sharp and sweet as cinnamon. There are a
thousand ants living inside but you will only see one or two at
a time. I am like that down there–pink and busy inside. The
dark is a bolt of cloth, crushed and blue, and I unfurl against it.
If you lie down on the floor of the closet the hems of silk will
lick you. My own gown is thin as the skin of dried grass so I
can see the ants dancing down there. The night has big paws.
I imagine the wool of the bears, the cloth of monkeys. the night
smells like vetiver and cedar. His mouth is cool with mint and
warm with rum, and I am not afraid as he rubs his wool against
I saw the bear dancing at the circus when I was small. He
was wearing a green felt cap with gold bric-a-brac and kept by
a thin wire thread. My brother bought me a sucker for the train
ride home, and I am like that now on the inside, burning soft
with lemon. What fruit do you like best? I like tangerines.
And the night leaves me these. A small paper bag on the bedside
table. The wrought iron and roses like an altar. I am glowing now.
My teeth are stitching kisses to my fist. I go to the river. My legs
are frogs legs. Tiny wands, see how they glisten. A thousand fish
swim through me. I am a boat now. I know no anchor. My hair
unfurls, copper and cinnamon. Look how it opens, beautiful world.
by Barbara Jane Reyes
there is ghazal swimming inside of her, wanting to be born. on the matter of foretelling, of small miracles, cactus flowers in bloom on this city fire escape, where inside your tongue touches every inch of her skin, where you lay your hand on her belly and sleep. here, she fingers the ornate remains of ancient mosques. here, some mythic angel will rise from the dust of ancestors’ bones. this is where you shall worship, at the intersections of distilled deities and memory’s sharp edges. the country is quite a poetic place; water and rock contain verse and metaphor, even wild grasses reply in rhyme. you are not broken. she knows this having captured a moment of lucidity; summer lightning bugs, sun’s rays in a jelly jar.
this is not a love poem, but a cove to escape the flux, however momentary. she is still a child, confabulating the fantastic; please do not erode her wonder for the liquid that is your language. there is thunderstorm in her chest, wanting to burst through her skin. this is neither love poem nor plea. this is not river, nor stone.
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Soon the lights will be up. I light the candles, make the tea, sit quiet and empty in the open blankness. This day I wake up in the city. The birds wake early here. Everything wakes early here. The sounds are bigger, and the streets are slick with night rain. The city is a hungry place, dangerous and toothy underneath its blossoming skin. All up and down the street, the sidewalks are petaled purple and white, then brown. The people pull their cars to the curb, they erupt from behind the steering wheel, breathless and in thrall, camera in front of their eyes before their cars are even in park. We need a picture. We all need a picture. Photos or it didn’t happen. Then so much of my life hasn’t happened. I spent the weekend blossoming in the sun, my hungry face turned toward her, til it pinked and browned. Fish belly white, fish mouth pursed, bubbling, all of us coming up for air after the winter’s thick, grey certainty. We are hungry not to know for a minute. We are hungry for unclarity, surprise. We are lunging for wonder again, the shock of yellow petals against the brown branch, against the brown grasses, against the brown morning. The forsythia is nestled over baby’s breath, over history and loss, and yet her color is a shock of hope. The days are not mornings and the mornings are not torn. In this city house I look out the window and see the buildings that stand near a hotel where I was tortured. Is that a fair word to use to describe that weekend? This happened in wintertime, almost 30 years ago. Or maybe it happened in spring. Almost thirty years, and I store it in my bones like breath, like sustenance. Why do I carry its measure against my life this way? Once I wanted it to mean something. I will not tell the story here, because the story carries someone else’s name into hell along with mine. Into disgrace. Into. What words are there for the story written by a man who made us choose between our lives and our values, our dignity, our core selves, our selves. This story lives beneath the magnolia blossoms that brighten the street. Winter comes with us into spring, it can’t help but follow us around. Winter lives in our breath and threads through the layers of our skin. As I think about some one violences every day of my life, I think about that night every time I am in this cityplace. It comes to be unbidden. Perhaps he reads this from his grey and yellowed stall and thinks he has made an impression on my life. He is ancillary, the leftover pile in the corner. What persists is the shame and the grief. The wishing that girl I was had had the bravery to pick up a cornerstone or an endtable or a paperweight and end him. But his story carried on, like mine did. These stories bifurcated, though for a time they were intertwined. The greens, the purples, the reds and hungrily burrowing out of the ground this morning. All around us, spring is calling her own name. There is a girl in a hotel room being used this morning, or a thousand mornings ago. She has red draped around her and she has forgotten the sound of birdcalls. She will peel herself into a purple dress and go out into the world like she deserves her own breath. She will smile like her teeth can’t cut. She will say words like yes as though those words mean. She will carry a knife under her tongue and she will cut herself with it every day. Outside this window is the history of everything. Soon the lights will be up. Blood is spilled beneath us, and still we walk our dogs in the morning, still we brew our strong coffee and listen to newswomen like they bring the gospel. Outside, the sparrows are my congresspeople. The brown bunnies their way legislate across newly greening squares of grass.