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.