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Zoë Christopher

Deception of Tulips

by Zoë Christopher



They discard their juicy
flesh and descend
into a riot of sea creatures,
jewel-hued petals throwing off
their gracious curves
in favor of eccentric contortions
and seductive grinds,
a raucous drunken party
where stem legs surrender to mush
in an inebriated collapse.

Their broader succulent
petal limbs wizen
into soft angular joints,
twisting into bony contemporary
dance interpretations.

It leaves me slightly dazed.

When the ovary has dried
stigma loses its magic,
and I lie down at last
exhausted and spent,
my perfect head resting
on the table.



A Crime He Can’t Remember


Mr. P is not among the current litigants.
He has undergone counseling, has no grudge
against the Order.

Do not wear bluejeans. No low-cut sweaters.
Wear slacks. Do not wear heels. No stockings.
These guys haven’t touched a woman in years.
Make simple conversation. Be attentive.
Keep your chin down.

Mr. P has been criticized, particularly because
he routinely speaks on behalf of the Order
and advises victims to reconcile.

Standard haircuts. Time-weary men in blue
work shirts, cuffed and belted jeans,
institutional shoes. Impeccable fingernails.
The air is smoldering and heavy.
Eye contact must never linger.
Thanks so much for coming.

It’s 2017 and Mr. P stands at a podium,
and I can’t hear his poems. I want to unravel
his cool-headed gaze.

I search those soft eyes for crazy,
trace the line of his jaw looking
for a stinging snap, a bite. I conjure
laugh lines but there are none.
We small-talk, cupping hands.
He is dead serious.

Mr. P applauds the friars for facing the problem long
before the nationwide scandal broke. He helps both
them and their victims deal with the aftermath.

I see him draped in black robes himself,
the priest with that holy light
beneath the skin, a radiant sorrow.
What’s he in for?
In seminary and prisons
we must never ask. Most do time
for a crime he can’t remember.



The 23 Helping Verbs


I am eight, standing halfway down the stairs when I learn she’s dead.
I go blind with the shock of loss
               is be been am are
               was were has have had
knowing her broad lap and cushioned arms will never hold me again.

I am eleven and his white smooth hands touch me in the pool house.
His half-naked and trembling body presses against my belly
               do does did
               may can might
me wishing I’d never learned to swim.

I am fourteen and her father washes her mouth out with soap.
He slaps her once for each piece of clothing she left on the floor
               could must shall will
               should would being
sending her away to clean herself before grabbing between my legs.

I am eighteen and my mother pummels me, pounding my head.
Like a fetus I curl on the floor
               do does did
               may can might
giving up my future, an unwed pregnant teen.

And now you, receding into dementia,
fading quickly so that I will not catch you.
I lean against the closed door,
fists clenched, sucking in my rage
               could must shall will
               should would being
reciting my helping verbs when no one else can.





Zoë Christopher is a photographer and writer who published her first poem at 16. Soon after she was sidetracked, putting food on the table as an ice-cream truck driver, waitress, medical assistant, addictions counselor, astrologer, art installer, bookseller, Holotropic breathworker, and trainer of psychospiritual crisis support. (She didn’t get paid for milking goats, teaching photography, or raising her son!) She holds a Masters in transpersonal psychology and spent 20+ years working in adolescent and adult crises intervention. Her poems have been published by great weather for MEDIA and WordsDance.