Recovery like Budesonide
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.
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,
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.