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  • White violet, not so much an image, and: I can’t listen to music, especially “Lush Life,”
  • Diane Seuss (bio)

[End Page 27]

  • White violet, not so much an image
  • Diane Seuss

of tenderness as an image of a memory of tenderness. I am ashamed to look at it this closely but can’t stop fingering

its five sticky petals, nebulous as water on the brink of becoming steam. Thin as a soul lingering for three days threatening to reignite into flesh, or a ghost climbing the body’s bone ladder in order to abdicate the body’s terms. This flower might as well be a girl named Violet, with dew on her upper lip, who elopes through her bedroom window, leaving only her thin, yellow-white chemise behind. Its petals are that fragile. They lack commitment to the material world, their molecules ascending, any minute now, evaporative, like a pretty infant bound and determined to fly back into the hands of nothingness, or a shepherd dispassionate about the lambs, always looking off into the lavender beyond. The only way to know tenderness is to dismantle it. That’s the essential problem, how we must get out the jeweler’s loupe and start dissecting, prying open the mauve sac at the base of the flower like a fox in the henhouse, looking for green ovaries spilling over with eggs, or Hawthorne’s Aylmer, prying away at Georgiana’s birthmark. I bring the torn flower to my mouth to confirm the myth of its honey, only to find it tastes gamey, green, like a hand that’s held too long to copper coins. This close, its scent is not sweet but sour—I crush it to awaken its perfumes— acidic, unripe, puerile, stinging, tined. I remember a poet reading translations of Paul Valéry when I was young. I wore a white, gauzy dress with laces at the bodice, and the poet stood in a pool of heroic white-gold light with his shirt half unbuttoned, his silver hair curling over his ears. [End Page 28] ‘Perfume is what the flowers throw away,’ he read, quoting Valéry. Later he tried to pry me open, but I ran home barefoot through the rain under a foggy membrane of moon—that ventricular patch sewed between the chambers of night and day, that wispy peephole in the screen between supplicant and priest in the confessional booth, that rice-paper privacy screen, painted with a profusion of white violets, in the black bordello. [End Page 29]

  • I can’t listen to music, especially “Lush Life,”
  • Diane Seuss

not as the era of tiger lilies wanes, not as their petals hang like the tongues of thirsty dogs, and the dusty star

chart of baby’s breath, and the brown-eyed Susan’s dark mound wreathed by gold petals like a nipple

bitten black. I long to frolic in the blue snow of an old television. Long for a bite of a deathbed

pomegranate. For the green-haired girl wearing a pomegranate-hued fedora. So much like my fedora,

but mine is black, and she is young, her body tattooed with my life story. There is Michigan on the palm

of her hand, New York on her inner thigh. There’s Spain on her coccyx, and the boy who tore into my mouth

on a blanket in a huge bowl of earth outside Madrid, and around us the throngs shouting Death to Kissinger.

There are the almond trees in full flower outside my bedroom window, and the poisoned strawberries,

so sweet, until later on the train back from Segovia. I lie on my back in the Retiro, braless, wearing a white

lace blouse. I’ve cut my own hair and it’s short as a nun’s. I’m playing dead, like Lorca did at parties. Hit me

over the head with his sugary femur. Nostalgia is depression. Who said that?

So let’s toast to the present tense. Vodka and hummingbird nectar, stirred with a finger bone. Can’t even read

the lyrics of that song or look at the sheet music. Notes buzzing like flies...


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