By Kelly Michels
Featured art by Karl Blossfeldt
She says it feels like flowers blooming in her veins.
The lilies watch her, unmoved
in the window.
She becomes the petals’
white polyester sheen, its rigid spine, slumped posture
leaning against the rim
of an old coffee mug filled with week-old cigarette butts.
This is how
I will remember her: bottles of pills, the walls scumbled
yellow, a flower blooming
in her veins, her gray breath rising
in a haze thirty years ago
the way she placed each plastic flower away from
the sun, the sting, anything
that could touch the color of the petal as if the light
could drag each one into the white,
worn sky, make it fade before her eyes. What else is beauty for?
but to be spun, set on a window sill
curtains drawn, petals hugged in dust, as she slept,
no sun to tell her if it was day or night,
the three of us kids trying to keep still, feeling our way
through the dark dreamt room,
unable to understand that this was the tick-tock of time.
This was what it meant
to live forever.
Only nothing lives forever.
The perfect moment—
the gardenias in full bloom
chatter staggering through a promenade,
the quivering flit of sparrows chasing
the listless light of noon
until suddenly even this ends,
until suddenly a car alarm ruins everything,
the chatter dissolves into people
screaming over each other,
birds fleeing, the owner trying to turn the damn thing off.
Maybe there were too many moments
that could never stay quiet or whole in her hands
like the day we took
our first steps, said our first words, or the day
she fell in love,
slept all night in his open arms, dreamt of the way
he looked at her as the ocean
wind tossed her floral dress,
dreamt of the way time could stop,
only to wake up and find every living thing
changed in some way
the flowers in her hands.
Kelly Michels is currently pursuing a PhD at University College Dublin. Her poetry has received the Rachel Wetzsteon Poetry Prize from 92nd Street Y, the Spoon River Poetry Review Editor’s Prize, the Robert Watson Literary Prize from Greensboro Review, and an Academy of American Poets Prize. Her poems have appeared in Best New Poets, Poet Lore, Third Coast, Green Mountains Review, Poetry Ireland Review, among others. She is also the author of two chapbooks.