I’ve spent years trying to write about what its like
to shit blood every day, but really what’s pretty
in a laceration of poems about shitting too much?
So I write about flowers instead, watching the sun’s face
like a storm eye the morning before surgery. My family packs
into the white room with me and a nurse plucks the sun
and sets it inside my room to blaze. She pulls the blinds open
and points out a tree bursting outside our window
bundled up in waves of summer, and I say in my benzo haze
that the Japanese Magnolia’s fat pink blossoms look like
exploding organs. But my family stares at them as though
it’s all an omen for growth with petals and seeds. Cut out
the bad with a machete whack, the sun says. Its light blots out
the window—pink and green scalded so the room whitens again.
And I think about writing about dragons and women and flowers,
and why do I always bring flowers into everything?
Is it very feminine of me, trying to make this disease beautiful,
wanting to be a flower instead? If I were a flower, then
my colon would be a thorn or rotten brown petal for pruning.
Right now, I’m telling my doctor that rose buds look like assholes,
and I don’t want one on my stomach, and if I were a garden
of flowers, cutting out my colon would be a weeding.
Afterward I would be a half-cocked, crooked stalk
with wilting petals for teeth, but I would be better. I’m thinking
that an exploding colon sounds like a joke that can’t work and
ulcerative colitis sounds like a bleeding vine roped in red wounds,
when really it is a disease that twines wreaths of poisonous sores
with tissues that are also bleeding and leaking shit, and also killing you.
Shitting blood for 6 years can’t be beautiful. I’m thinking about all this
when they put me under and yank the evil out. I think of it and palm
the magenta rosary you gave me, thinking I wish I knew how
to pray, and I am thinking of how to make shitting blood beautiful
as I descend into head-fog. And I am thinking ulcerative colitis sounds
like a name a scientist gives to a vine that has no beginning or end.
Appalachian Tree Story
There was once a spring storm that rended all our holler trees to the core.
The green valley burned and flooded, sparking hot for four long days,
and that year, the girl with burnt feet came home to Cry Baby Holler
to plant seeds where the oldest bended tree’s roots peeked. She whispered
sweet melodies to the twisted husk and left flower offerings every morning.
Cahaba prairie clover and mountain spurge dotted the whole dead valley
in boysenberry violet and burning sunshine yellow. Back then, Town Creek
cut a dark snaking swath at our holler’s center, and the girl would stand
bird-like in the muddy still stream to wait for her storms.
Feet-rooted in the shallow water, silent as the lightning licked, the girl would raise her hands to the sky and sing. A tornado swallowed her once and spat her out whole with red blisters for toes and a crimson tooth scar kissing collarbone.
Her feet crisped like bacon cooked in old grease, and the holler tree turned black as tar. But her flowers made the bent black trunk as beautiful as any of the earthly dead can be. Seeds burst and pumpkin vines viced round the tree corpse till it became a sign. Dead and saved, burnt as sin: a bassinet darned in brilliant purple buds.
Then the girl was gone. Somebody said they saw her fly up in the air, hair pluming like a feather crown round her head. Some said they saw her kneel
in Town Creek’s dirt brown water and ascend in funnel cloud. Some still make offerings to the flower tree. Girls in love cut their palms and rub thin wrist skin against the bark for favor. But I saw her eyes inside, searing and large.
Her bones are there still, white and wrought like a cross, brittle feet crumbling
in the shadow of the tree.
Liz Adair is a gutless wonder—a poet without a large intestine trying to write gut-punching poems. She received her B.A. in English from the University of Alabama in 2016. As a graduate student, she served as the Managing Editor of the McNeese Review and organized MSU's graduate reading series. She is the first-place recipient of the 2019 and 2020 Joy Scantlebury Poetry Prizes, and her poems have been selected as finalists for Jabberwock Review's 2019 Nancy D. Hargrove Editors' Prize in Poetry and F(r)iction's Winter 2018 Poetry Contest, judged by Kwame Dawes. She currently lives in Dallas, TX with her (very cute) dog, Rocky.