When I was a child, my sister and I peeled petals and collected them
in spaghetti sauce jars with their remnants of label and glue.
We filled them with water, lids tight, left in the sun to make perfume.
Blush of country wallpaper speckled darker
on its outer edges, conical centers
perfect as the promise of a universe unfolding.
Duchesse de Brabant
Fairy syrup on a pancake breakfast cupped
just like a child's hand closing on
its mother's finger.
Damascus roses in the Draa Valley were larger, prehistoric sisters
dried in garlands, raw as women folded into lotion and absorbed
through the skin. The only girl I ever loved placed samples on my wrist.
Plaid shirts and hopeful girls in calico.
Pointed ovoid buds the pink of dreams
that haven't been born yet.
Dance of wild horses on New Mexico mesas
the color of sky just after it rains. Her scent is
warm red barns and bales of hay.
I have the things she left behind. A child's botany of flowers collected and pressed
for school, the book unearthed in an attic with the caught breath
of lost handwriting; evidence of everything that can't persist.
Red Double Knock Out
Oil on collarbone and the bruised flush
of a bit lip that does not know
if it is gratitude or laughter.
Counterfeit roses wound from ribbons turned into pins,
cream of skin and freckles, herbal note of spas
where women lie naked and unafraid.
Here's the thing with girls, buds all the same, like babies, until they become
who they are. Too many turn into fabric plants; trace the veins on leaves
sewn on as seams and come out empty, unable to find them without any scent.
Pale as the damage of red sock in white laundry.
The size of a cocktail ring at charity balls,
she wishes she were gardenia.
Souvenir de St. Annes
Blush on seventeenth-century faces
in a dance at Antoinette's Versailles, her petals thrown
beneath the guillotines, soaking up their blood.
Nothing comes from her or them, or the parts that can and can't remain,
unfolding each articulated segment, wanting to still that coiled center,
those unfurled moments on their way to somewhere else.
Face powder released from its cotton bed
for a musician who will only let you fuck her
if you promise not to fall in love.
Wide as saucers filled with sour cream,
smell of sand on sunburned thighs, and the
corpse of a mermaid who wanted too much.
They bloom and unbloom themselves, my thumbs the wrong color
my hands thorns, a piece that seeds and doesn't sprout, and
every root that branches ground is waiting there for someone else.
She walked out of Sodom
and sat as the women turned to salt.
She poured her hands out into the floating sea,
collected in bricks and the foamy tops of waves.
She sustained crustaceans and other beings,
was rubbed into roasts and wounds
where she lived inside tears
and crusts of bread.