too much was never enough
—Olena Kalytiak Davis
All the garish flowers opened in midsummer,
tiger lilies yawning on the road,
bordello blooms climbed over each other:
bee balm, plume poppy, bronzy red & gold.
I dragged the couch onto the summer porch
in another careless venture towards desire.
You were the one who lit the torch
with pollen, diesel & meadowfire,
cooled it with blackberries dripping juice,
water pulled from an alpine spring.
The cat unfurled herself on the car roof
like a black velvet ribbon of longing.
The hay lay knit & spun in torrid rows,
falling in a blonde mess
to the shoulders of the field. You coasted
slow as syrup down the edge
of my daydream—engine purring, windows down,
rusty truck of trouble come back around.
After the long weekend of rain and warm air
we didn’t know if we could stop drinking
or start sleeping again, if we could draw borders
between day and night and act accordingly.
Those were the days when it never
got dark, when a fine mist sifted
rose-grey light on the pines and kept us
in perpetual dusk. We were changed.
We sprawled for hours
in the kitchen eating toast with honey,
mixing drinks and finding nothing
to talk about. Nothing was urgent.
The ice boomed and broke
and then was silent. Shoeless
on the back porch we leaned
against the rail watching ice floes
emerge from the mist and float downstream.
A cortege of ghosts on the black river,
luminous in the wet air,
they passed us by on their way
from this nowhere to another.
We wanted our own ghost. What spirit life
would gust down our chimney, whisk
through our doorways and settle
on the cheap wood of the house
like a film of varnish on the grain?
The usual signs: a door latching
on its own, lights switching on, footsteps upstairs
pacing their discontent from wall to wall,
window to window, until they pressed it
to the glass and passed through
to join again with the mist outside. We knew
no one was there yet loved nothing
like the suspicion of a visitor.
The air felt like breath
on our bare skins. From downriver
a long moan quavered and we hushed
to hear the call: three low whistles
then sudden heaviness in the floor,
a deep-rooted rumbling.
The train shook the house. We shut
the lights to watch the white beam
slash across the water and stare
in our window with its bared, blinding eye.
Diana Whitney writes across the genres in Vermont with a focus on feminism, motherhood, and sexuality. For four years, she was the poetry columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, where she featured women authors and LGBTQ voices in her column. Her personal essays, poems, and criticism have appeared in the New York Times, The Washington Post, The Kenyon Review, Longreads, Green Mountains Review, Tinderbox, and many more. Diana's first book, WANTING IT, became an indie bestseller and won the Rubery Book Award in poetry. Her latest project is a diverse, inclusive poetry anthology for teen girls, forthcoming from Workman Publishing in 2021. Find out more at www.diana-whitney.com