Lisa Hiton | Poetry

MAHLER’S NINTH

Gone, the pile
of shut black
mouths bowled
in cold

water. Gone the thyme
and tang of shallot,
as the garlic
burns in the oil.

They whir when strained:
shhh, let them think
we’re already

gone. Does a thing remember
its ocean? Brine
like ragged
cement. O

what thrill their lives were,
before the ice bath!
before the plastic bag!
In goes the white

wine and the fog
that rises from them
makes them drowsy–

why did I bring
something alive
into this kitchen,

in the wake of what struggle
am I to offer or perform
myself,

what was happening
in there, in those
blooming mouths–

so I peeked inside
through the steam,
obsessed with death
but having no desire to die.

.

.

THE SPACE BETWEEN TREES

“the trees and the trees and the / space between the trees, swimming in gold.”

–Richard Siken.

I.

Go into the garden and pick the tomatoes.

They’re ripe as a dream. Imagine me naked

making a dinner. Goat cheese, arugula,

fresh strawberries staining Formica. Imagine being

threatened by something so awkward and timid. I am not

naked. I am not brave. The world is never mentioned.

When we are young, we are inside our narratives

climbing trees because we cannot fly. Picking apples

from our fathers’ shoulders. Catching fireflies

in our hands. Open your hands now. Fireflies leaving you

for the air. We hold on to things because

we think proximity to the world makes us a part of it.

Call me from the garden. I want to make sense of it.

II.

Call me from the river. I want to make sense of it–

the clipped phrases, the muttering of words. There’s a house

party going on in the background. Some boy is playing guitar

like he’s the hero. I cut the lemons. I cut the lemons

off-center. Marrakech, pigweed in the gardens of Thasos,

the bartender, the book I gave you with the broken spine.

The word was never mentioned. Stand closer to me,

taste the sauce, I’m making it for you.

III.

For years the entomologist studies the species he loves,

and what he finds is too familiar so he cuts it into pieces.

Farewell body, farewell village, farewell window

with the amaranth flourishing in the morning frost.

I’ll dig a tunnel for you where we can live secretly

away from the light. The tunnel flooding, August storm.

Cicadas crawling up over us to die in the sun. I want to say

the word out loud but I have no voice.

Where is the shovel? Where is the hammer?

IV.

We built a garden but we forgot to build ourselves

a cathedral. Light beams in as certain colors.

I want to make a mythology out of the image

in the window. You picking tomatoes.

It always rains on the lover before she dies.

Two figures moving to opposite sides of a map. Look

closer: The map is a garden. The figures begin

as pawns, are revived as Queens.

Now, the moment where it’s no one’s move–

that’s what the poem is, the space between trees,

the landscape of distance, which is a longing,

which is a hunger, which is what makes us

lines on a page reaching from one trunk to the other

but there is no telling between the two.

Only air, only light, only the absence of flesh.

V.

Your heart is so small and delicate. Your heart beams

like citrus. Here are the pores opening. Here are lovers

ripening in a purple sky, the space where there is nothing

between. Face me. Leap into it. The lines blur and we

are not mythology, neither are we love. There,

I said it. Now close your eyes. Leave me

standing in the kitchen, water flooding in from the storm.

Wanting to be extraordinary we made ritual out of our tiny lives.

I’ll tighten the screwtop on the bottle of balsamic.

I’ll leave the knives in the drawer.

VI.

There is a myth about love and I read it over

and over. Every night you dispel it

by putting other bodies between us. How

does this end? Do I wash up on a shore covered in green

glass? It was supposed to be harmless, so you act

like it’s harmless. The smell of vanilla and thyme

in the crook of your neck where skin meets hair.

Your harpooned jaw. How we are afraid of the same thing.

VII.

It won’t be your body I miss when I’m alone (gunmetal

winds against the French windows)–I left the mollusk shells

on the sill in the kitchen. In South Carolina, you gutted them

and listened inside. It was beautiful to you the way opera is

to your mother, a language you cannot translate

but that you feel more deeply than your own.

.

.


Lisa Hiton holds an M.F.A. in poetry from Boston University and an M.Ed. in Arts in Education from Harvard University. Her poems have been published or are forthcoming in The Literary Review, The Paris-American, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Linebreak, and The Cortland Review among others. She has received the Esther B Kahn Scholarship from 24Pearl Street at the Fine Arts Work Center and two nominations for the Pushcart Prize.

2018-11-25T02:21:43+00:00