Natalie Louise Tombasco

Peonies in Utero

I follow a strange bloom with slender limbs:
the signature pink & plush reek of a peony. Stalk

her into sweet smells of confession, spring,
morning moon, a white budding tree near the lake.

I begin by washing my feet, drinking an indigo elixir.
At first timid, she tells me about hard cracked dirt,

the ho-hum life among swans & the reasons why we
prune the dead. Somehow her femaleness offends me

in a Kate Moss, small-breasted, dark-rooted sort of way.
She sniffs out my uneasiness or guilt. She tells me

vile truths: I cannot keep a fiddle-leaf alive.
I threw my baby dolls in the dumpster.

I am used-up, scraped-out. I feel myself growing
colder, cumbersome, thunderstruck with grunge

about to crack into a whole garden of bolts:
bring me the closed heads of peonies on a platter.

She folds like a parasol & collapses to a sprout
back into wet dirt. I do not know who or what

I am made from—if my body can ever be home
to a wheatfield. I begin pinning thoughts upon

the clothesline: being one woman is never good
enough. We were the same, clipped from the same

deep pink root. I could feel her, rogue peony,
settling down, flowering from my mouth.




There won’t be a cage in this poem. Suppose hummingbirds
Glitched from Yucatán over the border in a silk-thread
Existence. Birds of prey collided with the Chrysler Building.
Suppose it is end times & bad omens washed amuck in marsh,
Appalachia, the East Coast. Suppose pelicans & gulls dropped
Like stones, bloodied eyes & beaks—the Audubon Society
Turned to taxidermy. Suppose birds forgot magnetic pull,
Forgot how to fly in v’s, in Charlie Parker rhythms. Suppose outside
Was bare as a white room & birdsong was bottled for pleasure.
Then, I’d be Marion Crane—back from the dead, feathered mimicry.
Been locked up in a dark closet like a Furby—going back & forth
To the drive-thru for a Crunchwrap Supreme, wondering where
My magpie boo-thing has gone? Fattened up on blackberry, but
Hungry for the fall of wave & cloud on a little house by the sea.



Natalie Louise Tombasco was selected by Kaveh Akbar for the Best New Poets anthology 2021, Copper Nickel's Editor's Prize, and as a published finalist for Cutbank Books chapbook contest with her manuscript titled Collective Inventions (2021). She is a PhD candidate at Florida State University and serves as the Interviews Editor of the Southeast Review. Her work can be found in Gulf Coast, Black Warrior Review, Plume, Hobart Pulp, Fairy Tale Review, Peach Mag, The Rupture, Puerto del Sol, among others. Find out more at