Bethany Carlson

How mechanical, this bird of my heart

That winter each room’s malaise
The color of wild animals, torn
Their unclean meat a bared-arm prophesy
Sanctuary of steam & cradle  

The color of wild animals, torn
The honeycomb in the cloakroom
Sanctuary of steam & cradle
My tongue a bracelet of flame to taste

The honeycomb in the cloakroom
A scroll idling the roof of your mouth
My tongue a bracelet of flame to taste
The water at my wrist, a grievance

Scroll, idol, siege of mouths
The precision of fountains comes softly
Small thirst against my wrists, grieves
Whose fragrance you have known

The soft precision of fountains
Their bared-arm prophesy
Who is it that knows the fragrance, 
The malaise of each room’s winter

Two Truths and a Lie

At night when he reaches for her, she feels 
tiny pieces of herself slipping     over the edges 

of an iris field—whole stalks & stems ringing
            green green green    against skyfuls

            of wish & tilt, she thinks of the way the Narcissus 
blossomed jewel, how it blossomed easter,

how the sunlight jacked out from the center, 
spread over petals converging in quick lines of lightning, 

            split. piñata.  The blue threads of afterburn,  

his grip like so many pairs of eyes 
moving in the dark:

   two parts glitter, three parts terror.

She thinks of the peals of laughter            sealed 
                                                                 in each bud,       
             the sweet numbness all glossy around her throat.

Weeks afterward, she bruises easily, 
carries her weight in her waist.    She throws golden 

goblets across tabletops, scrubs her skin as thin 

                         as the sides of pond-lost coins.   She thinks
                                                                             of her mother’s lace gowns,
                                                                             how they dangled spent     

after rain on silver clotheslines.   She thinks 

of the way burns in Hades heal  
the same way burns heal anywhere:    
                                                               scars of red tinsel.

Yesterday, when he looked her in the eye 
& asked What do you see,           she said
A lone balloon tangled in the spines of a tree.

Bethany Carlson is an MDiv candidate at Yale University and holds an MFA from Indiana University. Her poems have been published in The Bellingham Review, Bone Bouquet, Boxcar Poetry Review, The Cream City Review, Cura Magazine, Diagram, Memorious, Meridian, Night Train, The Pinch Journal, Juked, The Laurel Review, Ruminate, The Washington Square Review, and others. She is a Kundiman Fellow and a member of The Lilly Graduate Fellows Program in Humanities & the Arts.