poemoftheweek poemoftheweek.com poemoftheweek.org poem of the week
June in Arkansas
I gaze at moths, spiders, and horned beetles
and recall pieces of my dreams: his voice here,
his hand there. Later, I sweep the porch.
Rivulets of sweat run down my throat and chest.
Who am I shining for? Phantom rain comes first,
then real rain pours. Every day I weep.
Light returns: a silver haze, chaperoned by crows.
I read for hours, sleep and wake; a string
of ants ties itself around my wrist. I wait
to feel in my heart the moment when day turns
toward night, and the trees become like children
walking home, asleep on their feet.
At the hospital morgue, I put on purple gloves, which made my hands look like fish beneath the surface of a pond. A man unzipped the bag so I could see my friend's face.
The dancers change into costume, stretch. A curling iron heats up on a table. Pairs of false eyelashes wait in their plastic kits. Around the edge of the mirror, a few light bulbs are always out, like the dim regions on a map.
It is natural to look for yourself first in a picture. To reassure yourself that you are there. The morgue was small and cold. The chemical smell made it suddenly hard to breathe. You won't, the ballet master said, when I asked what to do if I forgot.
I knew that it was true.
The sound of light falling.
The gray sky pinning
a single planet in its hair.
Days later, I lay in the grass
and woke to dusk, a moth
writing erasing writing
in quick, looping cursive.
A tattered scrap of a thing.
My voice. Its see-through wings.
-from The Tulip-Flame
BIO: Chloe Honum was born in Santa Monica, California, and was raised in Auckland, New Zealand. Her writing has appeared in The Missouri Review, Orion, The Paris Review, Poetry, and The Southern Review, among other journals. Her first collection of poems, The Tulip-Flame, was selected by Tracy K. Smith as winner of the 2013 Cleveland State University Poetry Center First Book Prize. She is the recipient of a Ruth Lilly Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation, as well as residency fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, the Kerouac House of Orlando, and Djerassi. She holds a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and an M.F.A. from the University of Arkansas. Chloe currently lives and writes in Lenox, Massachusetts.