Three Poems – Peach Delphine

Absence is a Wind

What we hold, what we burn,
as trowel is not shovel, fingernail is not bone,
a more delicate excavation
than armadillo rooting around in flesh,
the interior landscape bleeds out
with each incision, lacerations a binding
over time, relentless flowering, wet season
dry season, forgetting, remembrance,
there is no consolation in the ash
of words blowing from our lips

weight of blade is word not yet released by tongue
lingering behind pale of teeth,
lips dry as remorse, languid blooming,
so many wounds dropping petals
a garden relentless in the golden light of loss, emptiness
coils into the shell of ear, what remains unspoken,
heavier than all cutting, edge balanced on breath,
ground against the whetstone of fluidity by hand and eye,
splintered fingers of kindling
and the hard inhalation of ignition

a skink, sleek and lithe
flips over leaves at the tent wall,
a tarp is not a roof, a membrane,
a skin of habitation, stretched
on the edge of wind, on the lip of sea,
this language of waves spoken in sleep
without word for departure, only return
in all its variations, as shell does not
depart the conch, as sound returns to sea
as flame is tree returning to air

What we burn, trunk and limb
is the self of flat woods and palmetto,
where we abandoned sand and shade,
moss and oak, where we embraced
the hard margin of mangrove,
the curving cries of gulls, wind
taut and wave burnished, we remain
only as cinders, glass not yet returned
to sand, lightning yet unspooled from tongue

conch is a measure of day

You fold coral into my hands, entailed with liquidity,
tide and wind, body and flesh,
the word that was the beginning is ocean,
great river,
the word that was the beginning is sea,
sheet of water.

You brush out my hair,
you pour oil on my thighs and shoulders,
we walk down the beach hand in hand,
the sea will not consent
to my departure, the dry land refuses admission.
Still, in the world of shell and bone,
not yet an assembly of parts,
not yet a creature of surface
of ash and smoke, pines float
a canopy of green over squat palmetto.

We thought coral to be with us always,
we thought to never abandon sea,
barnacled as we are
leggy as windblown mangrove
hands flowering, palms sky smooth,
passing is a word of departure, transition
is a word of arrival, black skimmers
inscribe a trailing seam along each wave,
we face the Gulf, emptiness filling our mouths,
we unstitch the coiling water
stepping inside the curve

Dry season is wind without thunder,
our names never appear on lists of the beloved,
uttered only by osprey and wave,
what was always hidden,
cutting was a dark prayer to a deity of water,
ever to be as formless as tide
as effortless as wave.

What was always known,
even light bends to gravity
such is the well of pain our spines arch to,
curvature encompasses all our days
what was once called linear
sinuous as any tide, coiled as any wave,
or the mouth of conch breathless.
When you return me to the sea
it is with hands tender as clouds,
regret is a currency we can no longer spend
there are only shells in our pockets, shells and coral,
such fragments of our life together,
not yet ground to sand.

as stars open the vault

In sleep you dream of waking
laying a fire, returning tree to air,
grilling eggplant, dicing tomatoes,
all such flesh is our flesh, charred
peppers, purple onions, each name
a key to a door of past yet present,
we are voiceless as day unfolds, unclenching
the verdure of palms, sky sluiced azure,
catbird crying out to sea breeze, mockingbird
singing a borrowed song, once we learned
to float on dew, scull down creek
past needle rush, buttonwood, mangrove
felt the slow heave of waves
fetched across the Gulf, sleep
ever insufficient once we listened
for what was looking in.
What the pine left unsaid
rooted in flesh, chiseled into bone
“They are not your people” what was
unseen in the darkness of whelk’s spiral,
press your ear to that coil of emptiness
sea has voice, “this skin is not
your own, this flesh once light, once flame”.
When first we tasted ash
when first we abandoned the communion
of things, incense coiled about our
fingers, an emptiness echoing wind,
steps clattering, silver and plates
in the scullery, a door opens unbidden
porch banging in the breeze
salty, tumbling past house
into shadowed flat woods, we face
the Gulf, we face what stares back,
a fluid presence of waves
a glittering surface of reflections
a moon flowering above squat oaks
so many voices eroding this shore.

Peach Delphine @PeachDelphine was born in Tampa. She attended one year of college where she met Duane Locke, cooked across the southeast, and struggled with depression. She has a deep love of the Gulf Coast and the music of Duke Ellington. Her work is published in journals including Pulp Poets Press, Fevers of the Mind, and Ice Floe Press Geographies series.

Banner Art: Through A Curtain by Robert Frede Kenter

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