Seven-dollar lilies from the sale bin open
on the mantle, in the blown-glass vase
I got cheap. Next to them, a candle flame alters
the air. The 5 o’clock flight to New York
thunders gently. This is my territory.
The moment spreads its petals.
I painted this room myself, yellow
with white trim, white as the lights
on the mantle, lights that will burn
themselves out. I’ll use a coupon
to get new ones, little light after light
after light, just enough to punctuate the room, lift it
the way a mother pulls up a child’s sock.
I’m turning myself inside out, swimming
in the hum of the dishwasher, the tick
of the washing machine, the rumble
then silence of the furnace, this hour
that lulls everything into something
my body wants but my eyes fight back.
On the mantle, a framed picture,
a child’s pastel drawing of a tree house
that never got built. My son asked for it,
an escape, a lookout, but that wish
turned to chalk. See the rope ladder?
It barely touches the ground.
See the lilies, still opening?
Their petals will become transparent soon.
They will ooze the last of their sweetness,
their whiteness will brown the way bread
turns to toast, and their pollen
will dust the white paint of the mantle,
garish, orange as saffron.
Alyssa Chase comes from a family of visual artists and has studied painting and printmaking in addition to English and poetry. She recently received her MFA in poetry from Butler University, where she worked closely with poet, memoirist and prosody guru Chris Forhan. She has been published in The Greensboro Review.