Lisa Schapiro Flynn
has poems published in journals including The Tishman Review, Radar Poetry, The Crab Creek Review, Pretty Owl Poetry, Noble/Gas Quarterly, UCity Review, Menacing Hedge, 13th Moon: a Feminist Literary Magazine, and others. She has an MFA in poetry from Emerson College. She lives in the far suburbs of New York City with her family and two rescued dogs. She holds down a very adult job and hopes to publish her first poetry collection soon.
As I drive south on Route 6, I see a water tower with metal above it.
A radio mast or crow’s nest, outlined with metal gridwork, illusions its top
to spell out CLAW. When I approach, the word unfolds
like an anamorphic illusion into its parts:
separate steel stanchions that don’t spell anything.
I see CLAW because I am guilty
about picking apart a lobster who must’ve been a mother.
A large sac I pulled from her gut was dark purple.
She had red roe stitched up her tail.
I ate her as my daughter played behind me.
The lifeguards on Nantucket Sound are unmasked:
reddened teens in red halters and shorts, their flesh salted,
fresh. A girl gets buried in Chatham, nearly loses her life by digging
all the way to water, falling, the beach filling in around her,
her chest compressed by tons of sand.
The article shows her mother standing by, watching
as first responders create a corrugated plastic piping cage around her ribs.
The mother wears no mask. There are still such urgencies,
even as we seek protection. My mother gets the mail,
falls into the street at the top of her driveway
and is helped by two unmasked men who sprint from their vehicles.
The UPS driver keeps saying oh no! oh no!
Anyone can nearly die in her daily activities.
Your recall can start failing. You can wonder about your mind,
look away from a giant word that’s not really over the highway
wasn’t put there by an artist’s hand,
is unlike those 3-D art installations where
you look from one angle and see a rifle or James Joyce, then
you walk away and everything falls apart
into disparate component shapes.
Twice this summer,
a ghost comes to my mother.
Suddenly floral, the den
is so suffused with scent –
lilies – even the dog rouses
to sneeze, walk circles,
the shiny marbles
of her eyes scanning
for an invisible body.
My grandmother favored
ancient house dresses
to perfume, owned a single lipstick
yet kept two glass bottles
of Glockengasse 4711
on a mirrored tray
on her dresser,
teal labels ornamented
in black and gold,
pink atomizers like tea roses.
4711 comes from Cologne,
the region of Germany
where her parents, brothers,
were lost into boxcars.
The perfume sat next to
of her gone family,
bold as a tattoo.
I order my own bottle,
spray it like a séance,
hoping to inhale
the phantom scent
of lilies, hoping she was
our floral guest.
The tiny droplets suspend
I walk through
the nimbus, breathe molecules
into my chest. Hold them there:
astringent pepper, citrus, pine.
Not the lily’s fume and cloy.
I grieve a restless echo
of stargazer, trumpet, Easter.
That’s not a star, it’s a fucking planet
says the blonde whose name
always escapes me.
The only mom on the block who smokes
publicly, mother to three boys and no girls.
She wears low dresses.
I could count down the plink
of her middle rib cage, sternum,
climb the slopes of each breast.
Nights in the pitch-dark she walks
the dog down our block like
a woman who will kill
to make it work.
Our naked eyes look at Mercury.
My husband leans nearby,
clinks ice cubes against glass.
Her husband blasts Wagon Wheel
on a karaoke machine.
For a moment I feel I could
invite someone to rock me.
Instead, I grin the night out into
thick citronella and lantern haze,
drink vodka. Each one I throw down
flies like a comet, sears me
with an audible hiss.
Atlantic coast mussels synthesize methane, generate gill-energy;
bottom-dwellling Mediterranean Loricifera are anoxic,
creatures who don’t need air, lives spent ensconced in sediment and brine.
Downeast, sea-stars can grow new limbs –
everyone knows that.
Fewer know the talent of the echinoderm:
growing anew from a single limb.
Humans, we come from the sea. We grow, then have growths excised.
I, like the rest of us, synthesized ocean once, using
just a simple gland, that creature in my throat,
kicking saline vitality into my bloodstream.
Losing it, the cancered thyroid… is that what finally tethered
me to normalcy, the land-locked
numb of morning coffee and daily train rides, skyscrapers?
Once, long years ago, I was the vampire tetra of Venezuela,
propelling through water, leading with my needled mouth.
Quiet – in depths where soul is only echo – I would rule,
ribbon every blue-black, every green in dark blood,
skewer shining fish on the long bones of my teeth.
Today, I ride the local into the city, take the 7 to Queens,
under the river, out beside audacious shows of
verdant public greenery, up past 21 floors of vinegar-washed
windows. I avoid eye contact in the elevator, dream of swordfish cousins
(xiphias), who hunt how their bodies suggest,
zealously unzipping necks from heads.