Palustrine Crypt


by Sarah Shields

We steal flowers from Mrs. French’s
‘Do-not-touch-on-pain-of-death’ garden.
Flashy red-headed tulips, snipped from green necks.

Miniature roses untethered─wild babies with prickly cries!
Dandelions plucked up from sidewalk cracks.
Mother’s gold rings offer me one to suck,

Bitter as an accidental finger-lick of earwax.
The last ingredient we gather is the lilac
That has eaten up our own porch like spring stew.

We shake a bough’s petals free,
Filling our jam jar of gardens.
Her rings a-flash in vanity light,

Mother sprinkles our harvest into bathwater.
Blossoms congregate and twirl, aquatic dancers
That tickle my legs and make me giggle.

Tiny rose in my tiny fist,
I kick and splash─for thirty-three years─
And finally dislodge the drain cap.

Too many flowers this time:
Watersnakes weave around my body
To enter the dark nest of sewer rats,

The last slurp gone with a greedy suck.
My knees and breasts rise slowly. Petals cling to my skin.
Baby bones stretched, flesh swollen,

In my palustrine crypt of tulips, roses, dandelions, and lilac,
I’ve failed to perform Mother’s ritual, clogged the drain,
And left a pretty ring of filth.

About the Author:

Sarah E. Shields is an alumna of Colorado State University where she earned a Bachelor’s in Psychology. She is an active member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). Her recent work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Spider and Underneath the Juniper Tree magazines for children, and literary magazines Commonthought and Cheap Pop. Sarah studied Cecchetti ballet for eleven years and performed with her company across Colorado and parts of the U.S. at children’s hospitals and schools, assisted living facilities, and battered women and children’s shelters. She has also appeared on a televised game show, winning a trip to Paris. She did not see the Eiffel Tower lit up, however, and wishes to return. Sarah lives in Southern California with her husband and two young children. She was a finalist of the 2015 Berfrois Poetry Prize. You can find her on Twitter: @saraheshields.

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