by Leah Vahjen
(Winner, Southern Literary Festival, third place, Poetry)
Looking at the sunlight pouring
like syrup on the face and chest
of the sunflowers got me thinking
about what it really means to panic
at the disco, or to be my Aunt Colleen,
whose body is an earthquake now.
Daffodils with open silk
mouths stuck in ugly O’s that sound
too loud when I look at them.
Buttercups of some new child’s youth.
An afterglow I am sad to say reminds
me of a photo filter instead of this moment.
A butterfly’s blue wings made of taffeta
hide spindly insect legs I would once
have let land on me.
I befriended a chipmunk once. I rode
my Cinderella bicycle to our rendezvous
in these same early-morning pillars of sunlight
in a cul-de-sac that smelled like syrup
and waffles on weekend mornings.
The white woman who cut everything
short in her black-shuttered house made
breakfast for her suit-wearing husband
and a pad of butter cascaded down the lawn
of green leaves and ivy, into our pink,
hungry noses which would not be stopped
from smelling, however unwelcome.
To please the pull of society, Cinderella
and I have whittled our waists and dyed our hairs.
Despite the pull of gravity, my chipmunk died
and decomposed. In the face of an abundance of ways
to be redirected in space, only one reigns here.
In how many directions can I walk?
Will probability ever allow me to arrive?
Can I see bleeding hearts again
and peel their skin and pop their breasts
as if their shape does not mean comparison?
Maybe I need to stop moving, to give myself
a chance to catch up.