Green Hills Literary Lantern

 

 

Dahlia pinnata

     

Faithful, it appeared every

spring, pushing pale green shoots

through the clay-laced mud, new

fingers from the same old

root.

 

My dahlia, those first

warm days exploded upward,

threw out dark leaves

and then, the almost unexpected

fat buds, tight fisted

in the vain attempt to conceal

the pink bloom curled

inside like a knot.

The natal

flowers themselves swelled and burst,

petals razored

out, layered and stuffed, almost

too many, it seemed, to fit

in its neat circle, crammed sweetly

as baklava, deeper than it looked.

 

Unlike to the enthusiastic

irises, the fussy

anemones whose frames barely

contain their colors, the lupines

crowded in violet along their stems,

this dahlia’s blooms were subtle:

a soft, deep pink like the insides

of lips or the corners of eyes, those intimate,

overlooked cradles.

 

One year, the soft ground did not break

around the new green of my dahlia.

The roses budded,

the irises wept brilliant

sheets, but the soil over

the dahlia bulb dried, cracked,

and sprouted stubborn weeds.

Though I saw dahlias for sale, a bargain

at a dollar a bulb, I planted gaudy

marigolds instead that burned

outward, crowding my bleeding hearts, fed,

no doubt, by the dahlia root’s remains.

But I forgot

to tell about the gold

dusting of the flowers’ centers,

the way the buds drooped, heavy

with summer, the lopsided

height from uneven sun. My generic praise killed

the dahlia I knew and left only faint

lines as false

as the plastic smile of a doll.

 

I talk about my mother the same

way I tell about that dahlia.

 

My words make her fade

like a pearly close-up

of a sixties’ actress, freckles and smile

lines smudged from view, obscured

by the soft-focus, pretty

and harmless, insubstantial

as fog.

She becomes fake as the glossy prints

sold with picture frames that show

life sterile and neat, encased

in a window

small enough to hold.

 

 

 

 

Ode to a Sunflower Seed

 

The way each fits

neatly in the groove of my bicuspids

draws me in.

 

I like the crack, the sharp

edged shell that splits

open, that conceals

its prize: a nucleus

of oily smooth kernel,

the richness at odds with the pickling

salt. The seed resists

just enough against the inevitable

jaw, all culminating

in a briny swallow.

I like the way it prickles

my throat and how delicious

it makes water taste—even lukewarm tap

comes straight off the deep-woods spring

that oozes from the rocks, placed

for parched wayfarers.

 

The hull, its pregnant-bellied

curve rounding up to an elegant

point, banded in tawny creams

and dark, opaque yellows,

the less frivolous, more tactile,

colors of summer.

This is before the desiccating fire

and the salt, the wash of grays

that render the pattern more stark—

a stained fingerprint,

each singular to its case.

 

The plants themselves tower

above more garden-variety annuals,

heavy heads follow

the sun, flattering it with its mimicry.

The green-fuzzed gold centers

rayed in electric quince that crown

the sturdy stalk, festooned with exuberant

leaves, sprawling fans to shade the soil mysterious:

in the first breath of autumn, they mourn

and bow under their burden,

the next generation will wait for gravity

to pull the hull-sheltered embryo

into the earth.

 

Childhood wisdom states

that a whole seed,

swallowed,

will grow sheltered

in one’s belly.

I like the idea

that a sunflower seed,

gulped intact sprouts,

the roots anchor

in my stomach,

the stalk pushes up my esophagus, bursts

past my tonsils and erupts

in glorious bloom

from my wide-open mouth.

A floral sword-swallower, I’ll walk

with a petaled sun that blazes

from my throat.

 

 

Faye Boyce is a student at the University of Colorado Denver, where she studies physical anthropology and creative writing. If there were no social restraints on it, she would live exclusively on cupcakes and prance through the streets bellowing show tunes. Fortunately for the city of Denver, there are such restraints against this lifestyle and so she spends her time avoiding direct sunlight and writing.