Four Poems by Christine A MacKenzie

New Worlds

a planet of marigolds / stippled yellow flames against the sky / & all of these flowers swiveled their frilled faces / as i fractured the middle of one’s stem / & wore it behind my ear / running barefoot / & joyous in the soft soil / until the petals preserved in brown fragility like bog bodies mummified in peat / exploded as crushed glass flashed lightning in the downpour / sweeping away all vegetation rooted in the cratered rock :: i hid under large leaves & slept with the hard stem in my hands / until blue light streamed from the cracks / between the leaves / & opened them up to rainbow flowers / floating in midair / as if the atmosphere had turned to water / because the motion was that fluid / as petals & leaves drifted past me :: sometimes i still see the white plastic of female mannequins surface on farmland after the rain / but their auburn hair had fallen from their scalps / & regrown as milkweed for the monarchs / monarchs fused with metal / the size of wolves :: i hung my wet cotton dress on a sturdy tree branch / & splashing my cheeks in a puddle / noticed it took longer for the water to reflect the motion of my hands & thickness of my thighs / they warped in & out of their shape / as i stood above the puddle / who is this person :: there is a rumor carved into the bark of a felled tree that evrythin hppns fr e resn & Gd hs e pln fr u & maybe that explains strange mouths made from dust gathering up in the fields / telling me of cities bubbling back into the ocean / & plastic mountains reaching for a face lit in the moon :: i collected the body parts of mannequins dug up & washed them off to sew up a new woman / a complete woman / who leans against a tree / she has a blue eye / green eye / red torso / white face / & blue limbs :: green-sequined ferns curl toward her in the night / & a rumor in my dreams says naked thighs disturbing white sheets were objects of fascination for those who clung to bodies like magnets :: i wear a rusted crown because it fits well on top of my black hair curling up from saltwater / & others wear crowns of thorns / even when all is burnt away into white ash

In Fields of Sunflowers

1. a windpipe was crushed with large fists / & small fists scraping forearms / a bearded chin / cracked white chalk like road salt under a moon cut into slices

2. a woman spread raspberry jam thick on her tongue / & spit a thousand gelatinous seeds down your sore throat with a daring kiss

3. a steel kitchen knife rusted while a black beetle crawled over the dead sheen / leaf litter buried them both under farm dirt

4. little brown-haired children used to run barefoot in these fields of sunflowers / their dirty sneakers kicked off in the shade / screams echoed for miles of blue skies

5. an emerald wine bottle with the neck snapped jaggedly had nurtured a mossy mat over the shards / unrolling over a lone boulder

6. serrated red leaves made little dark patterns on the pure / creamy skin of a small woman’s body slumped against a tree / dark curls swept across her face / hands folded

7. her nails grew a millimeter / her fingers blistered into crocodile marble

8. she thumbed the cool surface of a light bulb / blackened over its curves / & tightened her fist around it until crushed into silver dust / metallic wires tracing circles into her flesh

9. the green spine of a sunflower tunneled up the rings of her trachea / driving between the gap in her buck teeth / & struck a match for a solar eclipse / encircled by red lips



three severed heads of roses dried in a little crystal box carved with diamonds / pyramids / invisible except to a little girl’s fingertips running along the surface / a box gilded / gold engraved with ancient daisies which refer to day’s eye / wide open to the electric glory of a thousand thousand colors pixelating a single blade of grass / arching into the mud :: your mother dried three roses from her wedding because she wanted three children / because she fell weeping for waxen cadavers displayed in glass cases / because roses are always dead in our gracious hands :: roses are not the roots planted deep in the earth / not the congregation of flowers on a bush / but necessarily severed body parts in a watered vase / & as beautiful as a young woman gently wading in a blue river / wind blowing her long skirt :: you are not a little rose contained / with your palms pressing pink against the glass until la petite mort withers into dreams of rising from the ashes of burnt fields :: you are a thousand daisies opening under the sun / your entire body surging with red until the world saturates starless because you die a thousand thousand deaths / not a quiet little death in a box :: these three roses have shattered so slowly with our light breaths burning their petals each time the box opens / the air is too thin in this box smelling of breastmilk / & vulture carcasses shred apart in the desert :: once you were a little girl who fell asleep under the floorboards in a game of hide-and-seek / & the hands of God painted your eyes like a moon glittering where no one thought to look in a world consumed with darkness :: your memories as a little girl were like metallic pearls under your tongue / spit into your palm / buried with your bare hands in dark soil / turning back into sand :: sand does not have to come from pearls / soil does not have to come from roses / but we can play-pretend with a blank canvas

Stay Awake

in a dream you snapped the stem of a rose in half / silver fluid dribbled onto my soiled palms / you said drink / drink vitamins extracted from thin air / an infant with polished ceruleite irises suckles at my breast / you said wait for the last drop / drop of silver poured down my throat / striping into microscopic vessels / you said there would be a chance your soft caress carries over to the star-speckled fissure between life & death / can you imagine bodies / without bodies / severed from their nerve-fibered fabric tethered to some kaleidoscopic earth / without blue skies snared in our baggy lungs / without skulls like cast-iron pots hunching over our shoulders / without pulsated fluttering of green mantle metalmarks  / overshadowed by two large ivory breasts spread apart in the sun / between life & death can we become lanterns without metal frames / bursts of raw stone without direction / you said stay awake you have to promise me you’ll stay awake. i said i’ll try but words are sometimes only words. a black-haired woman opened her armpits / a garden curling with fresh roses / all her petals peeled off into a simple glass vase / once you read on the internet that jupiter has seventy-nine confirmed moons / & so softly you held these playthings spinning rainbows / diluted magenta / on gravel / beneath your feet / you stockpiled all seventy-nine in your left palm as i wept / once you were a child who dove into a black hole in the frozen lake / a crowd broke into applause muffled as you pierced the surface / you almost opened your mouth for the cold water / to flood the emptiness in your chest / you counted the seconds / the seconds you could hold your breath / the seconds before water ripples with moonbeams from above / moons orbit around your body like a school of fish / you weren’t sure whether you’d ever been loved / i wasn’t sure if i’d ever be loved / stay awake you said. stay awake. / sometimes your mouth opened for a butterfly to crawl out / with wet wings / not yet ready to muscle into flight / sometimes you screamed out / a thousand of them / surging into the galaxy / sometimes an infant unlatches from my breast to stare straight into my eyes / silver milk trickling from his mouth / i stared back at myself / my underwear had become wet with thick blood streaming down my thighs / which is to say i am a woman / which is to say i am no longer a child / i am still a child / i was never a child / tell me a story you haven’t told me before you said as you held me in your lap / unbraiding my damp hair as i fell asleep to your heartbeat what if i could tell you what happens next / would you believe me


About the Poet
Christine A. MacKenzie received a B.A. in English, creative writing and psychology from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. In fall 2020, she will start an MSW in Interpersonal Practice to become a psychotherapist. She has been recently published in Susquehanna, The Inflectionist Review, Red Cedar Review, Fourteen Hills, and The Merrimack Review.