Two Poems by Eugenia Leigh
The Untold Version
I tell everyone the rapids dumped me into the Nile.
Twice. But in the video, I appear to let go
of the raft, the oar. I dive into the river.
In the dream, I unbuckle the life vest. Scrape off
the helmet. I don’t hold my breath—
I gulp. In the nightmare, the Nile becomes
the stream kicking down your cheeks.
In your delusion, I am the woman who controls
the dam. I take a hammer to the metal. Hack
everything loose. You believe I’m both
the villain and the damsel. In my story, you are
scenery. You serve as backdrop
to each character climbing into my blouse. No—
you are the stain on that blouse.
You weren’t the one
yelling swim in real life. In real life, I opened
my eyes underwater. Stretched
for light. I pictured you holding me down.
I pictured me drowning by choking on you.
These Particular Flowers
I traded my adult self away at the Goodwill. Rummaged its racks
for something I could grow without losing
my virginity. Settled for a pouch of hyacinth seeds
and a cheap sewing kit to reattach what’s left of my hymen.
My mother called. Asked me to attend her wedding—this time,
as a bridesmaid, not as the fetus being blamed for it.
My father called. Asked me to find out whether Mom plans
to visit him again—he can’t reach her. After the wedding,
a gardener called. Inquired about a floricide rumored
to have occurred in my mother’s church. I admitted, yes.
For the sake of photographs, we strangled hundreds of English
daisies with flower tape and lace. The gardener felt compelled
to tell the story of a broken-hearted man who once reconnected
his left ventricle to a papillary muscle using only flower tape.
That man believed the music of a retaped heart was all
his ex-wife needed to rush her way back to him.
—Dad? I asked the dial tone.
A man I once fucked showed me the bouquet he purchased
for his valentine: The color of these particular flowers
was genetically altered to symbolize commitment, he explained. Plus,
they were on sale.
I told him I had no idea roses could mean more than, I waited
in line at the grocery store ten whole minutes for you. My mother
received the same bouquet on her birthday.
An old woman on the subway once insisted we discuss
her granddaughter’s newly punctured maidenhood. She asked me
why today’s virgins don’t hold out for love anymore. Maybe a boy
gave her a nice flower, I said. So she didn’t think to keep hers.
About the Author:
Eugenia Leigh is a Korean American poet and Kundiman fellow who holds an MFA in Poetry from Sarah Lawrence College. Her poetry manuscript was a finalist for the 2011 National Poetry Series, and her poems have appeared in North American Review, The Collagist, Lantern Review and PANK Magazine, among other publications. Born in Chicago and raised in Los Angeles, Eugenia currently lives in Brooklyn, New York.