m a u r e e n t o l m a n f l a n n e r y ~ e v a n s t o n , i l l i n o i s
DEATH BY POETRY
When they opened her up
she was riddled with poems.
They didn't even try to transcribe.
They just sewed her up again
and sent her home.
Three months later,
in the spring of the year,
she died of poems,
her body alive with them,
protest poems in her spleen,
love sonnets in both auricles of her enlarged heart,
arteries clogged with blockage,
her lungs so cloudy with poems
each breath must have been a labor,
her breasts, hard as on the third day
when the milk comes in,
engorged with poems she could not let down,
safe poems in situ -- haiku tightly formed and cyclic,
ruptured poems spilling infectious mixed metaphor
into her abdominal cavity,
an ectopic poem that could not gestate,
ready to burst the tube
that stretched in holding in its will to life,
plagiarized and feeding on the good bacteria,
one last magnificent poem, almost spoken,
lodged in her throat like a piece of steak.
that she died of beauty undigested
like rough rubies,
and we need only read her death
to be gifted of it all.
Floodwaters have dislodged coffins,
sent them floating along roadsides
in North Carolina.
Think of finding fluidity again.
After decades of drying, bones
and what's left of flesh go boating
in sealed-up barks of their old decay,
sail right out of the mausoleum
without so much as a howdy-do,
down the road past the farm and the field
that whipper-snapper of a great grandchild
has left fallow, past the home place
with the fancy new paint job
on the wrap-around porch,
right into town without a buckboard,
past the gaps in Main Street,
the boarded-up general store,
past the Stockman's Bar where the guys
slide off their stools to watch at the window --
float fast, just like the gingerbread man
racing ahead of whoever might want
to end the joy ride, take them back
to that solemn place
where nothing much happens --
barin' a good rain.
WOMAN BECOMES HEARTWOOD
She'd always lusted after trees
as if she sensed the softness in her
needed to couple with the grain of oak,
as if Druid priestess knew who to worship.
As a girl she befriended the plum,
plucked and sucked its bitter green wisdom
from around the pits.
She sat on the shoulders of a lodge pole pine
that towered over the spring house
and lent her a view of the creek and the sawmill
when she first saw foresters and lumber jacks.
Hoping they would suffice, she tried loving them,
the carpenters, carvers, tree trimmers,
even salesmen in Christmas tree lots.
But men could not satisfy her longing.
Being held high in the arms of trees was never enough,
and she was not content
living among their fragments in paneled rooms.
Many she loved from the ground up
for their beauty or their strangeness,
their strength or their virility.
Then one dusk she saw it,
a magnificent hollow oak
with a large squirrel oak at its first branching.
Secretly resolved to union that moon washed midnight,
she stripped on the grass, took the pins from her hair
and climbed to where
she could lower herself into its very core.
Scraped by its rough interior,
she bled into its side.
Touching its soil, her toes grew deep down,
and she felt its sap surge upward in her
as a kiss that lingers.
Raising her arms into the branches
like a bride putting on her gown,
she smiled into the darkness
while leaf buds formed on her fingers.
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