Beth Miller


Keep Out of Direct Sunlight; Water Sparingly

I transfer the Crocus bulbs from the plastic pot to the terracotta flower bed I found in someone’s garbage on the side of the road, tucking them in the loose soil like how my grandpa used to tuck me in bed, blanket high around my shoulders to keep me warm. I play them Cecilia Bartoli’s, Italian Songbook, and tell them it’s safe to grow here in the windowsill of my kitchen where I wait for the bloom, that perfect color between indigo and midnight blue, as unattainable as the perfect shade of red lipstick, somewhere between Chanel’s Burgundy #26 and Bonne Belle’s Crimson Glitter frost, when I want matte, and I really just want to be in my grandmother’s kitchen, where the mangos ripen on the summer table and we feed rice broth to a bowl of collected rainwater and look at it under the microscope she brought me from her students science class and my grandpa helps me with my math homework, feeding me flashcards, peanuts, and root beer; where no one talks about why my mother forgets to pick me up or why my father has disappeared, and we pretend not to notice I tie and re-tie my shoelaces so often trying to make the “perfect bow” that they break every two weeks and no one sees me punch my hipbones when my uniform shirt won’t lay flat under my plaid skirt. But, this is my kitchen, where the sink has coffee stains I can’t bleach out and dust balls I can never sweep away and I know planting these bulbs for my windowsill is all I will accomplish today because I can’t even brush my teeth, bathe, shave my legs, or eat. All I want to do is draw a bath and sit in the water watching the sun move across the room through the verticals waiting for an answer how to get back there; in that body of an eight year old sprite that climbed trees and jumped in mud puddles and tap danced after school every day and I never tell anyone how I still wake up remembering the smell of my stepfather’s Grey Flannel on my body, or remember waiting on the steps of Holy Rosary Catholic School for two hours after everyone has gone home because my mother really is coming to get me. No one wants to know about incest or therapy or Prozac or how I wound up on disability last year when I almost put a knife through a customers hand at work when he told me he liked my ass and my boss said “I might need a break.” I don’t walk around like that stick figure on TV, feeling blue for two weeks and thinking maybe I’ll try Zoloft and be cured, because even the poets who always wear black and worship writers who were crazy, like Sylvia Plath or Anne Sexton , don’t want to hear a poem about a little girl being made into a concubine by her stepfather, hear about a mother who slipped her the tongue every time she kissed her goodbye, because after all it’s the “narrator of the poem speaking and not the poet” and if I can witness the Crocus bloom just once: maybe I can do something more than just breathe.