Portami Il Girasole . . .
Bring me a sunflower so I can plug its roots into
the socket of my salt-scorched coast. All day
let it display the little burning of its face, turn to
the sky that flashes back blue takes on its anxiety.
Darkening things still stretch toward what is
bright, bodies overreach, bleed into a wash of tints
and shades, pigments that, synesthetic, rinse
into musics. Unwitting, we wished. What luck it is
to vanish. Pluck up the petalled pinwheel that conducts
the gold crescendo of hours into haze, the surge no
orchestra can follow. Three hundred thousand volts into
the vault. Bring me the sunflower, crazy with light.
Heat that fierce in October was rare.
You were my refrain, my heavy little pearl
back then. It was my job to fret over
the sun on your skin as we lay in the grass.
The stream, a hopeful playmate, gurgled, heard
but unseen. You asked about the sound. You asked
about everything then. I told you it was water
running louder after rain, which turned
over more questions: from what? to where?
My baby, I ask you now the same, it seems,
from far past where the stream unfurls
its white flag and gives itself up to the sea.
Ask me anything now and I’ll answer. Come home.
I call to you from the place between wars
where men are back from their battles and little
girls have not yet been sent to their own.
Wind and Flags
The gust that hoisted the salt scent
from the sea unfurled over
the valleys’ switchbacks down
the garden’s hidden path to where
a bully in love it tousled your hair
to a crown of tangles and later
up the steep steps to the square
plastered your dress to you then
elbowed the men in the café chairs
and at night an angry drunk sent
trash bins flying slammed doors
rattled shoved started a fight
between the docked boats
that same so difficult invisible
resistance now that you’re gone
for sure has sober returned shamed
slinks into the garden to rock
your absence in the hammock
strung between the cedars.
The waves will never throw
the bones not paint their forebears'
portraits on the sand nor sign
the waterline in quite the same way
twice and we are saved as such.
Our fable would rip itself
to pieces if we ever found again
ourselves together in the wind.
The grains the glass metes out
shape down the coast little tries
at villages barnacles clinging
to the hulls of the hills dressed
for a saint’s day in their best
bunting and ships’ pennants
strung across the narrow streets
bright fluttering bits and tatters
hauled home as a child might
drag weeds and shell shards
back up from the shore proof
that a bright place he remembers
exists or existed. I surface
with a start to sunlight to see
those to whom the world
gives nothing give thanks.
DORA MALECH is the author of two books of poems, Say So (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2011) and Shore Ordered Ocean (Waywiser, Press, 2009). Her poems have appeared in publications that include Poetry, The New Yorker, and Best New Poets. A 2010 Ruth Lilly Fellow, she lives in Iowa City where she teaches at the University of Iowa and directs the Iowa Youth Writing Project, a nonprofit language arts outreach organization.