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 me. 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.
Poem from The Drowned Girl, reprinted with permission of Kent State University Press