There was a time you wanted flowers around,
so we went out Saturdays to get them, took each
for truth seen. You favored peonies—meat-rare,
squeezed together in damp newspaper,
but liked dahlias nearly as well; what we
carried back had spoken. I wish some now
from that same stand, to bring them home
and add them to a metal pail at a front door
that doesn’t conjure anymore, to forget for awhile,
on a phone call or out to pick up some things
for dinner, come back to the sound of you
in another room, past their radiant greeting,
to put my eyes on these signs too. I read
the flower as memorized. It sounds nothing.
I read it again and find the same. Its head
just larger than my hand—I need both
to make a bowl, to home this blood-worked thing
securely. To believe that in cradling
I am making it. That in believing, making it see.
To me the flower wills the held flower.
Holding is what I can do. Time does not wait
to be time. But I take it up. Take it, literally, from
its place, and in my hands look. A world, we here.
The hand heats the silk underlayer as teeth
soften, darken. There is no unknown watching
that hand, remembering that hold so closely.
COME MAY, JACARANDAS
draw our attention, momentarily attendant
as faces. Down the line I’ll recall mornings spent
with my youngest friend, who grows tall between us,
too tall for the blue dress that ties in back
until the size of her eyes echoes her. From her chair
she asks the face painter for flowers in every color,
holds her hands a knot upon her lap,
as devastating when she blinks as what command
I cannot accept. Later her mother
reclines for a long inking, a descriptive word laid
on the underside of her arm. No one flinches
watching either in their seats, no one believes
we will not each grieve ourselves.
I find this city devastating—fruiting cactus
armoring its garbage, helicopters sounding
long evenings in the yard, too much skin offered
to the fullest of sun. A girl meets herself
in a mirror, is made strange by her own face.
Where are our mothers?
What words arrest living things?
On this side of the mountain
wine-stain shadows darken, almost blue-black,
almost darker than negligence.
The girl takes my hand from below,
closing first that gap between our shadows,
then her eyes so things she cannot see
might focus possible life. This is not my child.
I have none, only this silhouette, this voice,
these names I’ve learned for blue and purple
blooming trees, this inkless body, the ink I conjure
as beauty conjures obscenity. I don’t ask
if she reads my hands as hers, walking these blocks
under just-turned jacarandas
in a wave of faces tipped up to be recognized.
Rae Gouirand’s first collection of poetry, Open Winter, was selected by Elaine Equi for the Bellday Prize, won an Independent Publisher Book Award and the Eric Hoffer Book Award, and was a finalist for the Montaigne Medal, the Audre Lorde Award, and the California Book Award for poetry. Her new work has appeared most recently in American Poetry Review, ZYZZYVA, VOLT, The Brooklyner, The Rumpus, FANZINE, The California Journal of Poetics, and in a Distinguished Poet feature for The Inflectionist Review. She is currently at work on her third collection of poems and a work of nonfiction.
Image courtesy Luisalvas at Wikimedia Commons.