Recovery like Budesonide

I.
Lilies, lilium, like valium, blur the senses

         He gave them in bouquets, pink stargazing
         blooms, the hems of the petals undulating
         as he held them out to me.

                  Only later did I discover his wife wore no. 19,
                  and that I was just another thing to bury in flowers.

II.
Now is a slow unfolding, pulling back
         the coverlet and breathing
without pain, without the fear of the pollution,
         or perfume that thickens like fog
to swerve over the median of the throat,
         causing disaster.

III.
It’s an interesting fact that stargazer
lilies were bred to gaze upward,
to bestow adoration.

                  Once, he pinned me to a bed, hands to neck, wringing,
                           bullysqueezing, so that more
                  than my saying what he wanted—I surrendered
                           to silence, to watch him as if he were
                           some vengeful god.

         Witness the broken vases,
         petals scattered at my feet

                           The option of taking in
                           anything but his rarified
                           atmosphere eliminated

IV.
Lilies are popular because nothing says
I’m sympathetic        to your ills like a scent
         so rich it cloys the lungs.

           Myth says Aphrodite at birth saw the lily
                        and jealous of its blank purity,
                                    created the pistil
                  its fierce penetration upward
                           solely to damage the white surface.

V.
                  Please understand that
                           I could have lain there,
                           lined the broken bed with plastic.
                  I could have given myself to the wheezing,
                           insufflated to strawlike space.

                  Please understand how difficult it was to gasp
                           for any small pocket of air,
                                             to remove the idea of punishment
                                             that I deserved the pistil,
                                             that he was god

VI.
You do not need to know the story of how,
                  what bones I broke to Houdini out.

You do not need to know how I broke the bloom
                  off the stem. What whiteness I gave up.

VII.
Now I pray to the clean swath of sheet. My lips graze
fiber, mouthing over and over
                  renew renew renew.
Watch me gulp the clean of cotton. Watch me buy
                  fragrance free.

Let me assure you my chest expands.

 

 

 

 

Christine Butterworth-McDermott is the author of the chapbook Tales on Tales: Sestinas (2010) and the collection, Woods & Water, Wolves & Women (2012). Her second full-length collection about the chorus girl Evelyn Nesbit and the murder of Stanford White, Evelyn As, has just been published by Fomite Press, and a chapbook, All Breathing Heartbreak (Dancing Girl Press) is forthcoming. She teaches creative writing and literature at Stephen F. Austin State University and is the founder and co-editor of Gingerbread House Literary Magazine.