What Do Irises Want?

“What Do Irises Want?”


By the drying sheet-kite sanctuary

where we tucked in sleeping onions

as the dead dogwoods sighed themselves into skeletons,


iris stalks angle now, Bolshoi ballerinas in tiger-stripe tutus,

upturned lips opening in steady relevé to the sky,

purple pigments running bud to sleeve


before some unseen flower tourniquet stops the flow at the hip,

lace sleeves crumpling with the crush of wind

and hit of the occasional gripless squirrel let rip.


What do irises want? They’ll bloom themselves

to death like this, reeking of spearmint and myrrh,

forking and opening in a whir of color and unexpected mint.


They try and fail, and do not really try,

to hold some beauty back a while.

But irises want only to burst, beguile, and be gone.


Their pretty heads bob, wave, and tremble with the grasses,

open to all buzzing suitors, leaving modesty and morasses

for flowers that ask more questions, linger longer.


What do irises want if not to drink deeply of spring,

no matter the cost? Drinking is its own reason—

everyone has had that season, or seen it pass.


Xiaca speeds time, and tonic cuts the bite of past made present.

Everyone moves with more rhythm and poetry

in loosened limbs, or so imagines.


That easy bloom is another highway to death:

in every leaching of power, a little powerlessness.

What do margaritas want? 


Sometimes they want the lime, sir,

and sometimes, ma’am, the salt—

but it’s the same fix every time, dual malt.


The payoff is a different rhyme,

the new thirst of a different day,

the piper of habit demanding his pay.


Once upon a springtime, when a season of terror broke my habit of kindness,

I learned a new dance. In my stall, in the belly of the house where grains

break across walls like sand hurtling under waves, and sweet tobacco


paints the air with lead, I tilted to catch the right wind,

time bleeding while I breathed, my arms blooming slowly

from fifth position down into third, nannying a pitter-patter


of little shell casings, bells plinging in the background

like so many falling acorns dropping in the wiry crosshairs of frost.

The double action of my silver talisman was cock and fire,


was deter and avoid, not accost

was a double shot into darkness

was you can go anywhere and live, but


do you want to live like that?

What do guns want? In my dream of a life

I want to live, guns want to be dancers—


to have that fluid power of the flesh,

the same power that causes such weakness.

No cocktail has quite the kick


of resolution as a shotgun’s,

but I think they want that, too—

the smoother finish of rum and blue,


the afterglow of embrace when they’re through.