Grandma called it sweet slumber, that juice
she squeezed from stem to drop onto sugar cubes,
slip into our mouths to quell a hard cough.
Reddish-orange fluid leaked
from broken stems that looked for all the world
like bleeding, thin fingers;
crooked, bent, pointing.
He turns his head toward me now,
eyes opening. I want to remember them
like this – brown as chicory and soft
with sleep, without question.
I take my fill quickly, memorize
flecks of gold and green in dark brown,
roll away from him, close my eyes,
and think of that day on the mountain –
Grandma balancing me on the point of her hip,
lifting my face to whisper,
Never take nothing to your mouth you ain’t tamed yet.
|"A passionate, smart, and beautifully bittersweet first book."
- Michael McFee
is one of many fine poems in
THIS GONE PLACE,
Lisa J. Parker's brilliant debut ...
back to ...
He has rolled away from me
in sleep, though the heat still moves
between our bodies. His skin
will keep this flush for hours.
I have watched it before, this slow
fade of color, like the last bit of anger
giving back the tempered flesh.
My forefinger against his wide,
Slavic cheek, eyes moving beneath lids,
his mouth drops open slightly, closes
again. I want to put my hand there,
his mouth, keep it from rolling angry
words into the next tirade when this flush
has gone and we are again only
two people at odds over every thing
but this heat between us.
A red welt beneath his ear,
where, at the curve of neck,
I have marked him, and I cannot
recall how much of that was passion,
how much anger. I touch my lips
to that spot, feel the blood beneath raised skin,
the heat of it. His breath catches.
As a child, I took the dare of older cousins,
broke the root, tore stem from scalloped leaves,
white, star-like blossoms, touched
seeping red to the tip of my tongue.
There are things in the forest
that will kill you with ease,
give you only the slightest, tart
warning of toxin and I was sure,
in that moment when my tongue pulled back
and I spit, hunkered close to ground,
that this root was the end of me.
Wrong season, too close to the last frost,
maybe. You could eat a plant ten different ways
without harm, but eat it once
in early season, once
with the wrong time budding
and it might take your breath from you,
your sight, the feeling in your hands and feet.
I rolled against crunching leaves on the slope
of mountain, spitting wildly, vaguely aware
that Grandma had come to the commotion,
taken the root from the boys,
When she lifted me to her shoulder
and said, They’s a reason I cut it with sugar,
I relaxed into the ease of her voice, the sway
as she shifted her weight one leg to the other.
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