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Lilies


ISSUE:  Summer 2009

From what bed or bank or shop
from what habit to adore, have you

placed a few just so in a vase and let go,

what air of finery
a simple gesture makes

though lines of rust run

over their mouthy curvature,
and they give up a snuff

of seed dusting a maple grain.

It is a pleasant picture, simple
as water lilies Monet set

down over years, war years.

His water lilies he might say
of lilies, of seeing

an amputee, say, on the roadside,

or hearing someone gassed cough up
some blood-spotted phlegm

into a kerchief he folds,

like a scrap of canvas, politely
back into his pocket.

Or was that his wife settling in,

her lungs busy mired under
the surface of her skin.

From what well or eye does one

slog forth a life. Is that my morning
tea steeping?

Is that my paper folded so precisely

I can’t tell its date or the names
scrolled as delicate

as fiddlehead, as a fiddle leafing

through a sheet of war song.
You write this and already

these hills littered with funerals

receive another, and the hills too
sing dying in an undying congress

of birch and beetle and drought.

Is that Monet’s wife at my door
her lungs in her hands

or my brother waking at night

under inches of sand and sky
in Afghanistan

This ain’t Surf City, Bro,

This is the fucking moon.
Is that my country kicking

some teeth in. Is that my soul

prattling on about cut flowers
at the breakfast table,

unwanting of brush or gaze, arbored

in the fat shade of grape leaves
even though we know

what we know. What should be said—

Imperiled toward what
does a soul turn, what shrill.

Whatever you are you are coming

late. The flowers a low flame,
the vase a Molotov.

And there is this—light

leaning through a window, a quiet
fire that drinks us in.

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