Suzanne Scarfone

Tulipwood and Pink Roses

there was something blue about you
from the day
you were born
the underworld of me
cold water
into the humming sounds and
mottled pink of life
liquid life
you were a sea of clouds
and swam in the other worlds
and below you

I heard you hum:
I am a jewel
I am myself
I am wet
I am painted
I am life’s paint
I am the dark water of all submerged

and now
your time drizzles by in breaths
and at this desk of tulipwood and pink roses
I pull you in with words
and feed you bread and joy
and sprinkle you with my water
memories of my womb filled with you
my blue prayer
my daughter

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Hymn of the Yukon

along the Yukon River
           great river
           large stream

my grandfather
smelling of turpentine and sweat
revisits the wet beauty
of his childhood landscapes
his painted life
the center of all his work

the pull of the water
brings back
the past
           what home looked liked
           and his mother
                       dead from Spanish flu
                       shortly after
                       her daughter fell over
                       from her wooden highchair
                       onto the worn kitchen floor

water rushes by
in dreams of
his young self
twirling and lurching
and landing
in soft birch leaves and
bundles of magenta fireweed
dirt glistening
and bright
as glacier-white ewes
dancing in sweet grass
fatten up
waiting to sprout their lambs

golden eagles
lesser yellowlegs
green-winged teals
hermit thrush
bohemian waxwings
swamp sparrows
trill with desire
through the cloud-ridden obscurity
of this boyhood forest delirious with sound
Canada spruce, skunk spruce, cat spruce
white spruce, black spruce
Alpine fir, white lodgepole pine, aspen
balsam poplar
the peeling bark of memory entwined with bird song
     trees and birds
     all the names he learned and sang to bring sleep to his baby sister
huddling close to her cot
the flesh of his boyhood
fragrant with the loam of nature

dozing again
he sees himself in May
climbing a tree and
jumping on to a cloud in some
daily heaven
floating gray and loved
looking out at a blue
full of little boats
sugar boats
carrying dew-green moss
through the sky

then wandering sweet and cool
through lupines, wild rose
arctic poppy
and forget-me-nots
           as blue as the river he loves
                       great river
                       large stream

he sprawls on the bank listening to
the Yukon drip candied
hymns into
the wind
and the dusk
washes his face
with star storms

all the way back
before his heart began to lose sleep
and the plaintive cry of mourning warblers
befriended him in grief
he sees
his mother by the window
humming and swaying
and his sister breathing in a tiny
birch cot
in the corner
made from this dream
he paints
along the
Yukon River
           great river
           large stream

the flow within himself
the running sound of life

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Box of Disquiet

truth be told
part of me has lived
in this box of disquiet
for years and years
let’s see
one still summer’s day
two of my teeth came out
baby teeth
plop plop
ripe pears
falling from my mouth
I gasped and flushed
and poked my finger in the
wet gum
and knew I wanted
to plant them
in the backyard garden
behind the wild raspberries
under the clumps
of bee balm
and scary weeds
I had on a pale yellow organza
dress with buttons up the back
and sprigs of apple blossoms
pink and green
sprinkled on my chest
and a pine velvet ribbon
tied at my waist
and my feet were
round and bare
I pushed
and pushed on the
heavy porch door
until it opened
my arms and legs
falling into the air
rushing through prickly grass
and cat’s pee and
other bits of
smelly life
I flopped on the ground
with my knuckles
a dirt home
for my teeth
and then shoved them
in a walnut
cracked open and
painted gold
and pressed it into the dirt
and quickly covered it up
soon I was called in to a
lunch of milk
and beef and
the house was quiet
and strange
I washed my hands and
my feet
and sat at the table
lighter and sadder
and thought
outside that window
in a tiny
treasure house
there’s a
part of me
in the ground

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