They are everywhere--those sunflowers with the coal heart center. They riot without speaking, huge, wet mouths caught at half-gasp, half-kiss. Flowers she promises I’ll grow into, sweet gardener, long luminous braids I’d climb like ladders, freckles scattered across our shoulders in a spell of pollen. She’s sleeping there--on that table with its veneer slick as a glass coffin. She’s fed us fiddleheads, the tine fists of Brussels sprouts, cupcakes, even the broken song of the deer’s neck. Singing. Flowers everywhere. In my bedroom chaste daisies and the vigilance of chrysanthemums. Dirt under my nails, pressing my cheek to the shag rug with its million fingers. You could lose anything: a tooth, Barbie’s shoe, this prayer. She loves me. She loves me not. I stare at my reflection, a posy of wishes. Morning glory, nightshade, tulip, rhododendron. In this poem I would be the Wicked Witch and she Snow White. Waiting. My father talks to me about their lovemaking. My mouth empty as a lily. I try to remember the diagram. Which is the pistil? Which is the stamen? Roads of desire circle our house: Lost Nation Severance, Poor Farm. Branches catch the wings of my nightgown. There is a crow and the smell of blackberries.
Tiny jewels of sand and salt spill from her mouth. Her lips lie like cloistered nuns. But her ears—they open like lilies. And suddenly all around her there are songs being sung. New notes slick and green, currency on everyone else's tongue. Her own was slow, cut from the wrong cloth, it hadn't been out on the town in years. When it slipped out it wore shoes of cordovan and danced the old dances like somebody's grandmother. There had been a book like the big screen. She had slept for years on pages of silk and sweet organza. Her legs opening fields of lavender and white space. And the babies. It's true she had wished for them. But this chapter she had wrapped tight, kissed their little heads and left them sleeping. She was prepared to be a murderer, to be the worst kind of woman if that's what it took. She would alter her best black dress and make it new. She would pray for red shoes. She who had chattered away inside her own mind through miles of salt and sea was not afraid to dine alone. She would go to the finest of restaurants and point to the menu. Her teeth would bite and her tongue would remember: asparagus, quail egg, tiramisu. When she cleaned her plate she would stare down into it like a mirror, the tiny pond where she had said goodnight to her two sons. It would blink back, her third eye. The city sparkles before her. Oh glory of glass, oh gloss of steel. Waltzing back through the maze of brilliance, past the park and public library, the lions purring, her teeth clicking, the alliteration of old avenues and boulevards, the constellations necking with the skyline, the chambers of her heart glowing now, her blood orchestral, the little cells, the millions clapping—the men she passes, their mouths itching Aren't you? Do I? Didn't she?