Kryssa Schemmerling

 
 

THE LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS

 

Family of madder
and bedstraw, leather leaves
whorled. The Easter gardenia next door
is dying. Frost-killed petals

darken and crease. My neighbor’s face
aged into the landscape of her youth:
Sicilian hillsides fissured
by summer drought.

She plants rosemary for remembrance;
sweet peas for departure; marigolds, grief.
Leaves seedlings on my porch-step
wrapped in Daily News.

She can’t tell me what they are
or what they need. Forty years here,
English has never taken root
on her tongue.

Lungwort? Bloodroot? Dead nettle?
Latin names escape me. My father
would have known. He is in the zone now
where nothing grows.

 

Glint glyph

 

TWO PHOTOGRAPHS BY LADY CLEMENTINA HAWARDEN (c.1857)

 

1. Tableau Vivant

Emptied of objets, andirons, antimacassars
layered in other rooms

like silt, the universe is a parlor emptied
of everything but daughters

orbiting in accordance
with Mother’s vision. Unseen sun,

she appears as ghosting,
a flare of white at edge

of frame, spinning
images out of glass

and ether. Visible
only through her muses,

costumed as goddesses
and boys, posed

in contemplation
or half-asleep, drugged

on collodion fumes,
maternal elixir

of silver, cyanide,
rain.

2. Still Life with Girl

London hovers
above her shoulder,

in the mirror, out
of reach. Embalmed

in afternoon, Her Lady’s
namesake, Clementina

pulls aside a heavy drape,
raises a dagger

of light – why,
we can’t decipher.

All that’s known
is what

we see: stars
on the wall.

 
 

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