Where Flowers Grow

We draped ourselves over patio chairs
outside the café
watching young men near us
tear open six sugar packets apiece,
dissolve the contents into their drinks,
and litter the table with sad, crumpled husks
under the burgundy shadow of a red canopy.
Their talk puh-lunked like ice cubes in our lemonade.
I ran my tongue along your tart and sticky mouth.
Was nowhere sacred, they were saying.

Our way home was longer than usual. 
You drove outside the city;
we passed by a soybean field.
My window slid down
when I pressed the small gray button,
and I missed the sense of accomplishment and power
of cranking the long metal shaft in the door
of my father’s ’66 Ford as fast
as my thin, babygirl arms could turn it.
Our short-cut through the cemetery,
truck tires throwing gravel at the blur
of carved crossed and embedded portraits.
Slow down, I asked.
You muttered
Sacred places are where flowers grow.
I thought you would have something smarter to say,
but realizing flowers by headstones were fading
silk and poly-something blends,
I felt sad for them, the dead. 
If you die, I shall plant Canterbury bells
on the mound over your chest.
They bloom near your birthday.

I saw a lady that evening in the pet store. 
Her belly preceded her through the aisles.
Purple ribbons on her skin
stretching from the knot of her sarong
announced little buddah, floating,
Oming inside this temple.
Home, I examined my own stomach.

Once, I prayed, too young for such prayers, make me empty.
            “Let’s play hide-and-go-seek.”
            No, no,no,no,no.  “I don’t want to play.”
            He’d spit on me, and rub the spit around.
            If I bent my head all the way back,
            I could see one tree’s branches and sky,
            sometimes butterflies’
            long, awkward descent
            to Aunt Pam’s irises below.
            I’d watch the leaves trembling on the pale limbs of the birch.
My stomach has no more striations than the silvery
cenotaphs of growth. You don’t see them, though,

when you lay me down.  You hide us both in darkness, and sweet words
drip from your lips, a honeyed anesthesia,
but your stubble scratches my breasts and your sweat
falls on my forehead.  In your sanctuary,
upon the altar of night, your curtains drawn together,
without the moon to look at,
I am the wife of Orpheus, slipping away a second time.

- Leslie Bohn