Finalist : Terrain.org 6th Annual Contest in Poetry
Sun burns the match-tip-blue cineraria to the ground, but saves the crop of snails
and fox-tails. Drought-proof the hollyhocks grow six feet tall,
inch-thick wands with bud knots like flute stops’ wooden pouts.
Who plays them but the yellow bird light?
Like blindmen’s seeing-eye canes, the stems so want the light,
they photo-trope over grape-stake fence slats, toward tin roofs blazing in sun.
No wonder they bloom valentine plush, ruby, maroon, the reds
so deep, they’re clotted, bits of earth’s nether heart.
You found scraps of poetry in the trash, maybe even early versions of this ode, and wondered in a poem of your own how I could throw out “jewels.” You wore no jewels, no make-up, dressed plainly, often in browns and beiges, russets. It was all one with your love of earth, lentil soup served in dark green bowls, the cumin and cardamom in your stews. Some evenings, we sat on the cement slab of porch reading poetry, drinking peridot-green wine, watching the stars through the bay laurel near the door where the white cat perched, ridiculously like a cloud.
Sunlight cuts through the walnut leaves, irregular swords drawn then sheathed as the leaf holes close.
Tides of gnats, surfeit flies, bees jostle, surf, hover, motes of life, glinting then vanishing
only to reappear, flickering day-stars.
The zinnias bloom taxi-cab yellow, carmen-miranda- and flamenco- pink, carnival colors so hot they cannot possibly die, or they must. Magnified, each petal reversed is furred moon green––as if jazz had veneered chlorophyll’s workaday hue,
but the hot button centers, neon pink, vermillion and red-orange, hold yellow spires hollowed like straws made for bees. The dazzling is abuzz with their urgency.
You told me eventually how you raised your son in the woods, your intention minimalist, living without television, radio in a coldwater cabin. But for reasons, his desire for a more ordinary life, your frustration, you sent him to live with more conventional kin. One night, he went out to the two-car garage and hung himself. I knew even then that you longed to follow him. I told you how, drunk, I sent my daughter out of the house at 2 a.m. for complaining that I woke her up. I blacked out and came to an hour later to find her huddled in her flannel nightgown in the neighbor’s yard, knees up, hands clasped around them, making her own small shelter. But years later it was you who went into the woods with a gun and blew yourself away, the gray and red of you, grief, guilt, poetry, love, gilding the earth you loved, the leaf mulch and pine mazda.
Passion flowers wound along one fence the cruciform
stamen standing in the purple stained bowls,
their yellow greens so acidic they ached in the gland behind
each ear, like the high fast notes of violin.
And the pollen littered the pale green petals white gold
as they drooped and waned: the urge to be
outlived even the flower.
Hand-wide, head-high, the hollyhocks nodded as I watered, shedding reds.
They took the sun with reds so deep they swarmed, ruby veering
to plum, and here, a startle zig-zag of magenta.
They made my mouth water, my eyes fill.
No wonder they dizzied me, like a kneeler who’d
risen too fast, red gone to my head.
Mary Moore’s poetry is forthcoming in Birmingham Poetry Review, Cider Press Review, Unsplendid, and Abraxas, and appeared recently in Drunken Boat, Nimrod, Sow’s Ear Review, One, and earlier in Poetry, Field, New Letters, and Prairie Schooner. She has one collection, The Book of Snow, and a book on women’s love sonnet sequences.