Runner-up 2015 Ruth Stone Poetry Prize

like chrysanthemums, like tulips;
like the droopy pink heads of peonies
that filled our kitchen windowsill, spilling
over mason jars and plastic cups
until, it seemed, they could no longer bear
even the weight of air, their oversized
faces too heavy with touch. Pink
like a lily’s slow death, the mess of it
on linoleum—scattered wings
that catch, reflect the deep
pink streaks of sunset.

Pink like the color my mother smeared
across her lips, nights she disappeared
in her favorite outfit—backless top,
leather pants—leaving me alone
until she returned home in a perfume
of diesel and cigarettes; a man murmuring
through pink papered walls; and me,
curled beneath a dozen stitched blooms
I peered through until I heard the door’s
soft click. Pink like the smudged kiss
of sleep, like the stain of it on my cheek.

Pink like the playhouse,
where M. and I undressed each other—
the rub of denim, whisper of cotton
caught around our thickened breath;
the bed of throw pillows, our private palace,
taking turns with the mirror, small bodies
flung open, our pink parts splayed like a treasure
map, two crooked stars marking
what spots shimmered in the dark—this is how
we are the same, how we are different
pink like snapdragons’ puckered lips, that urgency
of tongue, a small pink flag of surrender.

Pink like the scar on my chin
from when a guy hit me, split me open,
with the edge of his ring, while a riot
of bougainvillea crept along a parking lot’s
chain-link fence. Pink, like the extra strip
on a plastic stick, the one meaning pregnant,
the violence of April as cherry trees drop
their canopies, pale stains blooming
down the brick and cement. Pink,
like the beginning of something,
or like the end. Or the slick, raised
pink of healing.