Beth Gylys

Three Poems

On Birds, Women and Fire

The goldfinch needs fire,
the cold slip of her flicks past
as sound­less as a thought
lost to a ques­tion.  But you,
you need water.

You burn from every cell,
your lips bub­bled, your face
molten.  You want to fold
into cor­ners of cement, to sink
into snow.  Heat dumbs you.
Words dis­perse like smoke.

Once, you were young;
now you think ici­cle, stainless
steel knives plunged into ice.
But you lift the flames
of your arms and can­not fly.
Your mouth flares open
but can­not scream.

Like a sym­bol of everything
gone wrong, your orange core flashes
against the dark­en­ing air,
that bird some­where in branches,
and no one comes
with even a cup­ful of help.

Days speckled with mistakes,

nights a bloat­ed thigh of them
pressed across my face.
Make me a stone beneath the cool river
where I rock but don’t lift.
Let me stay there, my stiff,
pale cheeks washed forever
by rain. Let me be stone
that has no mouth, whose brain
is her heart, is her bowels,
whose hands are tucked
per­ma­nent­ly into the pol­ished belly,
whose pain is the same as her joy.

When I Lose My Taste

I will press my tongue to brick—
in my cot­tage, paint every wall
and floor a shade of yellow.

Ravenous as a bear in spring,
I will chew clover and marzipan
and every breed of nut, bake cakes
with for­eign names: Strueselkuchen,
Bebinca, Buccellato, Sachertorte.

How tired my hunger will turn me,
each nerve a point of desire.
I will ache till my vision blurs,
my throat’s all screech and rasp.

I will raise my hands to the light.
And the light will drop like a quarter
in a pond, and the music, sweet as cane,
will fil­ter through the pines.

May God lift me under my arms
and car­ry me where he must.
May their wings remind me
of choco­late and cardamom.

May the mes­sage recall butter
and rasp­ber­ry, caber­net and framboise,
the taste of your lips, fog beyond the lighthouse—
how we were guid­ed all along,
that vague but clear arm extend­ing across the water.


Beth Gylys is cur­rent­ly a Professor at Georgia State University. She has pub­lished two award win­ning col­lec­tions of poet­ry Spot in the Dark (Ohio State UP 2004) and Bodies that Hum (1999 Silverfish Review Press) and two chap­books Matchbook (La Vita Poetica Press 2007) and Balloon Heart  (Wind Press 1998). Awarded fel­low­ships and res­i­den­cies at the MacDowell Colony, La Muse and La Centre D’art i Natura de Farrera, she has had work pub­lished in antholo­gies and jour­nals includ­ing Paris Review, Antioch Review, Kenyon Review, Ploughshares, Boston Review, and The Southern Review.