The ovary isn’t buried.  Its sleek sac,
pressed against the pipeline stem,
seems endangered
but is hidden by hapless styles, flouncy
spathe of cream. In a dusky
waterfall of beards,
the Irises walk like Wise Men tall without moving,
their giant folded hands like wings.
Mass exodus of Yellow and Purple crowding.
I was afraid to touch the rhizome—
that I would hurt what seemed tough,
feel in it hollow not sharp
ticking.  I was afraid that what I couldn’t touch I didn’t love
enough.  I didn’t want to lay it out on the grass,
and find it dead.
Mistaking a creeping rootstalk for a seed—
the beginning for the end—
hadn’t I already killed them?
Would they ever flower again.  Past
ensnarled in present,
No I am not stuck in childhood

I cried to my brother still wielding our mother’s knife
in his mask, part wolf, part some-animal-face-smashed-in
like the chipmunk my son had buried up to the neck, face
exposed  so he can see the stars fall in summer my son
cried to my horrified face.  Give me that horror
in this garden,
give me that love, that knife
for the rhizome—not the one my mother wielded
at my father for his infidelity or the one my son brandished
at his brother, not the knife I pressed
against my wrist after a man pressed a knife to my neck.
The irises don’t like crowding, they will not thrive, however wise.
Give me that love, that knife for an incision–
split the node from the mother-plant,
soak them in water and chlorine, then
position them upright. I am finding my mind in this.  I’m losing
my irises I tell my mother   Can you teach me how to divide them?
Sure she says absently plucking the hairs from her chin
then— impatient—:   It’s easy  just split them in the fall
or summer I don’t really remember  Look it up
Haven’t I given you the books Just split them—.
Can you teach me?  My voice floats away—.
What if I kill them with a knife?  What if I kill them by leaving
them as they are, vying for space and light, husks batting
at husks.
A Mansion for the Dust my son cries after molding it from clay
then handing it to me reverently—-.  Will I put my mournful voices
in the central hearth made of toothpicks?
Will I destroy that and that and that?
Who told me
I could save them, I could save
The Irises walk like Wise Men tall without moving,
their giant folded hands like wings.
Mass exodus of Yellow and Purple.

Alessandra Lynch is the author of three books, most recently Daylily Called It a Dangerous Moment (winner of the Balcones Prize, finalist for the LA Book Awards). She has received several fellowships, including residencies at Yaddo and the Macdowell Colony. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in the American Poetry Review, Kenyon Review, Ploughshares, and elsewhere. Currently she serves as Poet-in-Residence at Butler University in Indianapolis. 

Next Page (Matt Hurdle)

Previous Page (Alessandra Lynch)