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.