stalk, don’t & petal

Ismene, I saw him reach for you, lay out
flat his hand for you, I saw him bluebells

Rain& cockleshells, my girl bent over the

garden wall to contrive to gather flowers
for the hall, to put into her mother’s hand

Rain& I thought she might fall straight in,

tumble long over, pricked among the rose
thorns and the briar, hair caught in a noose

Rain& skirts flying. but she didn’t and she

wasn’t and they weren’t. stayed at the hip
on the stone she reached clear over, breasts

Rain& bone falling forth and she plucked

clean at the root the lily white as and the
gowan and in one fast hand bound them

Rain& wrapped them at the stalk with her

hand and carried them upright like a prayer
coming. it went like this: I am no one’s but

Rain& yours, I am no one’s but yours, I am

no one’s and yours. when you reached back,
when you fell at the waist like a sun in a blind

Rain& he couldn’t see you then for eyes, but

knew you near, smelt the dank blood on your
animal parts and sought to bring you with him

Rain& to live in his blindspot like two thrushes

throated on a wire, we sing, we sing, we sang,
all feet dangling and wings lame, we have sung

Rain& beaks open like pits of dead fire, embers

black with red and glowing, we will have sung,
we would have sung, stay your lips, stalk, don’t

Rain& petal over, bloom, don’t & fall, don’t &.

Karen Elizabeth Bishop is a UK/US poet, translator, and scholar. She teaches literature and literary translation at Rutgers University and divides her time between the wilds of New Jersey and Sevilla, Spain. Her debut poetry collection, the deering hour, was published in September 2021 by Ornithopter Press.