Months after you leave, I take the dried roses
from that bouquet you gave me and throw them
into the bath tub with some sea salt. Of course,
I drink a margarita from the glass with the flamingos
and hold the book just above the water’s edge:
my nightly ritual from those days. Long ago,
you asked, “What do you do in there?”
I did not answer; the sound of falling water
drowned your questions. Tonight, the book
is about a young priest leaving his faith
for a girl with almond-shaped eyes, an exotic
dancer. It is set in Buenos Aires. After he succumbs,
I release the pull with my big toe so the water
will spin out. Its rush towards the drain sounds
like the whispers of the priest’s prayers,
not to the Savior, but to the girl and her ample
breasts, her small clever steps. When I look
over the book, I see one rose petal lacquered
to my foot: a stigmata of flower. And I forget
the tale of Padre Garcia-Mendes and fall
hopelessly back into the depths of my story—
my own turn away from that which I believed.
In your dresser drawer there is a yellow envelope
which contains your dead sister’s baby teeth.
Your intention was to bury them on the thirtieth
anniversary of her death somewhere near the daffodils.
But the day was cold and the ground was hard.
After awhile, it gets old—death is an annoyance,
the unwanted neighbor of Contentment. You want it to go
away and give its fruitcake of worries to someone
else, leave your holidays to Christ and hope
and resurrection. You can’t help but imagine what
secrets might have been shared, how you might have curled
her hair, how in the certain light of Easter morning,
she might have given back the smile of your mother
or your father or your brother, how she might have held
your hand, your fingers intertwined in silent prayer.
You feel the sharp bite of permanence scraping your skin.
Christine Butterworth-McDermott is an associate professor of English at Stephen F. Austin State University, where she teaches creative writing, fairy tales, and acts as the poetry editor of REAL: Regarding Arts and Letters, a national literary magazine. Her creative work has appeared or is forthcoming in Alaska Quarterly Review, Beloit Fiction Journal, Bellowing Ark, Borderlands, California Quarterly, Fourth River, Gulf Stream, Hiram Poetry Review, Medulla Review, North Atlantic Review, The Potomac, RATTLE, Slipstream, Sliver of Stone and Weave. Select poems have been nominated for a Rhysling Award (published in the 2005 anthology by Prime Books) and have received Honorable Mentions in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror (17th and 18th Annual Editions). Her chapbook, Tales on Tales: Sestinas, was published by Finishing Line Press (2010). Her first full-length collection, Woods & Water, Wolves & Women, has just been published by her university press.