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Core creative / Poetry
Lot’s Wife
Marion McCready
A poem
		   for Pansy Maurer-Alvarez


Cleopatras—my calla lilies
evoke cobras, milk-bathed skin,
aboriginal queens.
	I planted them
in a blue ceramic pot
outside my bedroom window.

I planted them in darkness,
late august—a last defense
against the shrinking of summer.

I planted them to cup, hold,
preserve the sun’s warmth
a little while longer.
	Yellow coiling spathes—
flower-sculptures caught in motion:
opening, unwinding.

The lilies guard my sleeping
like terracotta warriors.
All night the wall between us
dissolves and they enter
my dreams—
	silk-cloaked angels
lifting and carrying me
into the hills.


Every day is the same—
the radio talking to the kitchen walls
and she tending to her herbs.
	She's called them after operas—
Tosca, La Traviata, Aida, and Carmen—
lined them up on her windowsill.

This is her home, her life
for as long as she can remember.

Last week she pulled a shallot
	from her garden—
the sole survivor of forty bulbs
planted in the spring.
Held it by its tail like a mouse,
mud dripping from its yellowing head,
sat it on a square napkin,
the outer skin peeling back.
	She rolled its name and variations
round and round in her mouth
like an incantation.

There's a tree stump
in the living-room,
it resembles a head—
they use it as a coffee table.
Sometimes she examines
the pale green circles of lichen
for signs—patterns, love letters.
Sometimes they become
the joined up shapes
of her favourite constellations—
the Water Snake, Bird-of-Paradise,
	the Hunting Dog.

This day is different—
even the birds know and are silent.
An empty wine glass on the shelf;
her head, a cloud of sleeplessness
like the dark cloud of tree
that hangs in her neighbour's garden.
	The neighbour they'll be leaving behind
like all the other neighbours on the street—
men and women she's fed
at her table; the children
who grew up with her own.

A sheepskin rug is slung
over the back of a chair;
an untuned piano props up
a photo of her dead mother
holding her two daughters,
while they were still small
enough to hold.

Today she's leaving
all of this behind.
Her husband is on a righteous mission—
he's taking her somewhere new,
he's taking her somewhere beyond the hills.

He thinks she has no regrets.
He thinks she has no one
to look back for.


Worried she was cold
I draped her favourite cloak around her
breathing in the last gasps
of her perfume—
	the sticky scent
of Bergamot orange, lemon,
heart of Jasmine.

I’m trying to imagine
her face in the featureless pillar
of rock salt that stands
	before me.
I imagine she can hear me.

Where does the heart go
	when it stops?
What does the mouth close on
when the lungs are stilled?

She’s standing on a hill
caught between sky and sea;
her cloak billowing.
From a distance
it hangs mid-air like the flower
	of a calla lily
or body of a dust devil—
red and swirling.