5.03 awful flower! the hurt! & the wound!

Leia Penina Wilson

outside the garden
inside the garden    there is
only the certainty

                      & promise

                            —all is red    marigold    on fire
                            —all will be well    i tried to tell you.
                                                      the rules to this game haven’t been very clear.
                                                      we carry on. we carry on.    today

        the return/ of failure: a wild animal
        answers another wild animal’s mating
        i like everything    cold

  i look for the burial place of death    who
  does that

    the dermis of    my own
    my own burial place of death
    some    entire live
    cycle    feeds another saturn
    swallowing hades hera   we eat

    the fig, sweet

    today i invent feelings: would that i might
    shelter you

                        cunting into the old skin of
                        the death adder    i coil!

                            o glory! giant grasshopper nymph!    she was right/ resentment can’t be parted

         voice mediator/ corpse manipulator/ poet—

        that part in the movie where we realize we’re in the movie & we die
        now you know

        nothing will be soft

        —theseus & the minotaur
        —theseus killing the minotaur
        —apollo & the nymphs
        —apollo & daphne

                                        in a crackling voice everyone asks something i don’t especially trust
                                        & do you remember a poem

                                       i am nearer

                                        it’s important to remember to remember to remember to remember


        the state has a monopoly on the use of force
        & they cement the dead seal the deal
        & 73, 639 deaths from covid-19 in the us

          &    greener than grass i am and dead—or almost i seem to me

              if i lay here will i petrify    i let
              the text autofill
             & it learns i don’t even know myself

            ouch screen    SMOKE SCREEN! ant

                    S M O K E S C R E E N ! ant
                                                    SMOKE SCREEN! ant

pitiless sibyl!    ever victorious rival!    our!
terrible! love!

   resistance & residue: i thought

   bad angel! our! broken! love!

   ruin & redemption: architecture of

                                 apocalypsebaby    we anticipate
                                 fear, language, fantasy violence

                                 your daily altar/ of eros

    i don’t need
    an audience    to be alone


        i perform/ my live/ threadbare

        i perfume/ my life/ threadbare

& send messages through the mouths
of corpses    mine, too   
do you know
about love anyway
pleasure is/ its own
motivation    we were villains &
i need.


When I think about poems, it’s always as how to translate this pre-verbal whatever into some vocabulary, then into further order—so a project that specifically took translation and collaborative making on as an approach was very appealing. Looking at “roses, too,” the sculptural/installation/photograph, I thought of an altar, a monument, a terrible rupture in the earth, the creeping vines or flowers look like lava, fire; it seemed very hellmouth. Yet, still, and windless. I asked my best friend what she thinks of when I say “cement.” She replies: that people often mean concrete when they say cement, cement is one ingredient in concrete. So I ask myself, what bindings are at play, how do you hold stuff together, what even is connection. Concrete can be cast into any shape too. Of course—gray. Stone, Medusa, gargoyles, the eruption of Vesuvius. Controlled explosions, extraction. You’ll notice the Sappho poem, translated by Anne Carson, in my poem. I love this idea of inviting other voices into the poem as a way of speaking corpse. I’ve been thinking a lot about necromantic practices. I read that in ancient Greece one of the powers a witch learned was to speak through the mouth of corpses, to send messages and I guess this is my current obsession. This is equally about listening.
—Leia Penina Wilson


Leia Penina Wilson is a Samoan poet. Her current favorite tv show is She-Ra and the Princesses of Power. Other favorites: Sailor Moon, weaving, reading YA, wrapping Xmas gifts, Halloween candy, ginger bread cookies. She teaches in the MFA program at Chatham University.

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