Flowers—A Desert Metaphor

after C.D. Wright

peace lilies laid open
polleny shimmer
of their center—this war

is born by the forgetting
of the smell

it doesn’t matter that white
means peace

how many quiet dead
could the whitest
hands enfold

stems remember when war
had a beginning
and an end

now they are just
always curving
petals

to catch the wind—
someone saying something
is over

in the desert
calla lilies grow

smaller bodies for
smaller bodies

the desert there the
desert here

sand fills all
the delicate mouths
of flowers

monsoons rip—
lilies tip their pistils

to water
and weep

Portrait

Your noisy corner
where Beckett’s lines begin

Your laugh when Stein and
Susie flux in a poem about tea

Your portrait this wet sound
A chortle like a beefsteak
or the nightshade’s bristled stem

His sallow jaw
and

Your mouth a window
painted shut

Eyes an-
echoic chamber

Songs flickering
at the nape

a-
flame

I crack the spine
white tunnel of bone
find your smile
a burning picture

Epigene Spiritual

I query a spirit,
How did my family survive
the pogroms? except it
doesn’t know the word—

how many of us do? Like Jew
it falls differently
depending on how you say it

I was told they hid
in the cellar for three days
and nights no food or
water or light

just the dark and their sour breath
and the spill from their bladders
and bowels to remind them
they’re alive

Generations into genocide—
a wave humanity rides
holding its nose until
the water breaks—
we accept that trauma
makes its white-hot home
in the body

Can I trace it back then?
The failed lordosis
that sets my skull on fire
dysplastic hips the teeth
clacking at night and eyes
near-sighted and sore
in the sun

All these annals of tissue,
pale columns of bone—
my blood the water that slakes
their thirst

liquid that kills
the last embers smoking
in their lungs

Ovum Nocturnum

I cracked an egg in
a dream, watched the yolk
slide into a bowl—however
bowls look in a dream—

watched a phosphorescent spine
twitch, bringing the yellow
orb with it as it slid, bones
glowing a neon
color I can’t name.

I wondered could I
save it, cover it and keep
it warm without cooking
while the skeleton sprouted
limbs and flesh, some feathers—

if it was a bird after all
and not some human
thing my brain had mistaken
for food.

Marie Landau

Marie Landau is an editor at the University of New Mexico Press and a member of Dirt City, an Albuquerque-based literary collective. Her poems have appeared in Litbreak, Birch Gang Review, Powder Keg, Red Paint Hill Poetry Journal, SOFTBLOW, and elsewhere.

Photograph by Christie MacLean

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