This atomic flare—her heart beating through its own mad shelf-life—
She refuses—she will not submit
will not turn & give credence, & forget
she is toxic & fueled (hates him, believes it will reach him & crush him)
the way she’s taken charge, it’s how her life is hers (wild flowers torn ragged
after the other one was taken—the prettier one, taken, the one that shone & caught his eye—)
not mythical, not door prize—
storming out of her body—to disappear & deserve it
(this field cannot be sustained)
If I could just be good
enough the endless whisper in me
would stop, he’d stop finding me
over & over again—
memory an endless hunter
chasing the body into a trap that sings giveaway.
No birds call here—
the light filters through cold & so still
I am running lost
in a forest of trees tattooed with digits in white
their bark numbered & discerned—
panicked & sweating
my breath does not belong
the forest refuses
it wants nothing
it expects nothing anymore
just waiting & the numbers all facing north—
hands numb & targeted(hide them in your sleeves, run them through your hair—)
I’m not here, not here not here
not here— not here—not here—not here
not here—not here—not here
Did you think your hand
could rearrange the world
with no consequence?
That I’m just some damn doll,
some pupa, sold
on not eating? This cocoon is
hardly romantic. This place is no place
to be: a puppet’s hot closet, a girl’s idea of safety.
I hold the bead in my teeth
grip perfection tense and tight.
The Sufis say that pearls
are beauty formed from chaos
but I don’t know if that is me.
They say the sun moves each day
over the pyramids, over the desert—
I know April blows the windows in
until they’re glass hammocks
until my hair is rising in the light.
She circles herself, humming
the same few bars over & over
until melody is scaffold & shocking—
& the falling away, the unraveling—
The unthinking ready thing—that lucky bird reflected in the glass, that vessel, that beautiful tree
The park two blocks away traps birds
in dirty cages. I sit on my porch
& listen to the peacocks call out
their mockery of pain ow ow
Pictures of the dead & dying
litter my shelves. Age fans its own
tapestry: the blue of Mary’s dress,
the feathered eye of God
blinking & preening for whoever
will admire. The foothills brace for snow.
I was wrong. They cry
nonono a chorus of protest
I can’t imagine. It is cold & I am
tired. Wait—it’s now now now—
aloft & readying—evidenced in nothing
I startle & shine under new syntax:
Aster. Coneflower. Queen Anne’s lace.
in the garden of the National Gallery
a Polish woman has planted
girls—not far from the water—wrapped, at attention
off-key in their own chorale—
how this place is—art scattered in blocks of sunlight—I want to be
here all afternoon:
not move into the dirty square and enter the train
not return to the life this garden makes not mine
—this fountain will run forever and I will
stay here just a bit longer
the girls singing quietly behind me—
all the pieces I turned my back on—all the truths that contradict the evidence
on such a rare afternoon—
I raise my face to you who I left behind—
What is to be done in the field that separates us?
So let me be thy choir, and make a moan
Upon the midnight hours
John Keats, “Ode to Psyche”
I want all the parts of you
that aren’t me, that make me
unreflected & endless.
I am reading about human history.
The Turks dumped so many Armenians
dead into the Euphrates that the river
diverted its course—can this be possible?
How can it be otherwise? Water
recoils like the similar heart.
My love for you is an ocean, each grain of sand a kiss from your mouth that I turn in my memory when days are long & I am lonely. Each grain of sand I know by heart & turn it in my fingers, hoping. I sort my love for you into piles: everlasting, common, everlasting, common, everlasting.
What color are your eyes?
My love for you is a flock of golden sheep, resting from the midday sun. Because I know you are waiting when the sun goes down, this is paradise. You wait in a robe of gold that I spun during my long days without you. I wove in my fears that you would leave me, my doubts about who you really are. I shepherd this heart of mine through fields & streams. I wish I could see your face.
The sheets are warm from my wanting. Waiting,
a breeze barely presses through
the screen to reach my skin—I have no wings.
Come. Speak in minor chords of love against
my throat, your mouth hot & messaging.
Sing to me—like that, there, like that—
My love for you is an impossible task, like catching a river in a bottle to carry and drink from when I am thirsty. I wake each morning eager for salty olives and your feet in my chair as we drink good coffee. I am always thirsty, and you are never there.
Since I was a child I have been told
this is how women are: always waiting
for a man to show up and start
things. What am I but a fool, always
alone at daybreak? My days full of waiting
for you to show your face to me
in full sun, or even shadow. I pick like a bird
at what I am given. I should be happy
here. The lilacs are days from fading and
a pair of cardinals have nested
in the pine behind the house. I watch
them chase and dart, expecting
of each other what is easy and simple.
He is watching her, just
The dream world has made her
swollen and warm,
muted. She has woken
to ask me if I am an angel.
I lie and tell her yes. What do I know
of the other side? I answer people’s
prayers but often not as they wished.
She believes she was fated to live alone—
She believes she accepted her loneliness.
I tell her I can fly because of her kiss.
She is dreaming, just
We are in a field, surrounded by simple
flowers. Windows between us
and the dead. I watch
the horses move into the west field
and how the grass waves,
and it is not forlorn.
My love for you is a magic box taken from the underworld. The box contains an idea of beauty that glamours & makes the heart flutter. It makes the queen of the dead beautiful beyond compare. Beyond beauty is my love for you—expansive & magical, barely contained in a small, red box that does not quite belong in this world, & will undoubtedly be borrowed again & leave the lender alone, unreflected & endless.
Melanie Figg (www.melaniefigg.net) has won many awards and fellowships for her poetry, including grants from the McKnight and Jerome Foundations and the Arts & Humanities Council of Montgomery County. Her poetry and essays have been published in dozens of journals including Nimrod, The Iowa Review, LIT, Conduit, Margie, Colorado Review and others. Melanie curates Literary Art Tours in local galleries (a Washington Post Editor’s Pick), and manages Cross-Pollinate—a multi-genre artist workshop that develops new work based on the Liz Lerman Critical Response Method. She teaches creative writing at The Writer’s Center and in private consultation and received her MFA from the University of Utah.