Sweet William

Sally Rosen Kindred

Petals curled in the mouth, petals
driving light out past their edge: 

you are the tongue’s slip
that turns bread to breath
You are the heart’s milk
spilled down the stairs:
William, the name

my mother gave to the bloom
she knew grew bracken
and South in her, mossy
the months before
she bore me.  You

are the one she dreamed 
she carried, who kicked off wet petals
to reveal the dream's real twin
drifting: pale moon-sister, me. Oillet,
little eye, if you could see
 
the hard world I fell into,
relief would take you sharp
as those blue-green bladed
leaves.  Instead you hid
behind the teeth—memory, ghost-  

bloom, you were the cry
of my wronged breath
still furled. Throat William, threat
flower, if borne would you
have waked her,

our aster, named
for the blue flat moons
of her lids, our
Sleeping Mother?  Would you
have found a way to keep

her upright, you gallant might-
have-been Victorian shroud
of a bud, bearing
witness to her damask fears?

Or perhaps you’d be
the hard seed, Stinking
Billy upending the tight plots
of loam.  You could give her
flame I never had: feed
her sad bed your wild reds. Oillet,

if you could have seen
the hard world coming—
why not you then, you, burst
of petals fit for my mother’s
mouth—medicinal,

your blood sleeves set to split       
like stars, to break and heal?