by Christine Butterworth-McDermott
Ariadne Sends a Bouquet of Dandelions
On these yellow flowers, he was fed, a brew
to strengthen him to battle, to brave our minotaur.
Dear Phaedra, I’ll always be the one who led
him out of father’s maze, red thread wound round
and round my ring finger. You can’t erase me,
even with a curse. I was, in fact, the first.
Yes, you may remind me, how he sailed away
without a word, from Naxos. And true, he married
you instead—but, sister, he’s still sailing.
What new seas has he now discovered? Above
what sweet lips has he hovered? I may have woken
to disenchantment, but I also woke to a better man,
a god who soothed the crying girl, lifted her from
the sand, and even now, eyes her over the grapes
at breakfast. So, go ahead, and claim that throne.
You still wander, room to room, alone, no true
queen—just a second or third happening. And
your desperation’s showing plain as the grey streak
in your hair. No wonder your stepson hurries
his pace away from your glances. And you should
know, dear sister, your fickle husband won’t
truck good for goose, good for gander. Mark
my words, in this folly, you’ll lose. You can pull
up all of Hecate’s weeds and blow your wishes
seed by seed to a thousand winds. But you’ll
only find yourself deceived, left with stems,
and ragged leaves, sharp as lion’s teeth.
Here is the Blue Hydrangea
“ In Japan. . .an emperor supposedly gave hydrangeas to a maiden he loved as an apology for neglecting her when other business took up all his attention. . . Victorians were not as fond of the hydrangea. . .the flowers were sent to declare someone a boaster or braggart, or to chastise someone for their frigidity.”
Here you are, my former Adam,
iced down to the ground.
And still you burst forth, like bright
blooms reopening out of old wood—
blue as the color of swimming.
You’re right, I cannot help temptation.
Yet, even reborn, you remain ingestible,
cyanide thriving in your petals.
You send bouquets to say you’re sorry.
You send bouquets to accuse me of frigidity.
I can no longer decipher blue’s true
symbol just the lawn’s raw edge.
I’ve discovered I cannot make you less
deadly. I cannot keep you from rattling
me like a serpent. But if you will ask
me to throat your poison, if you want
me kept—a drowning Eve—
I will burn what’s left and say:
I blacken your bloom, I refuse your seed.
Christine Butterworth-McDermott’s latest collection of poetry is Evelyn As (Fomite, 2019), a book about the 1900s showgirl Evelyn Nesbit. She is the founder and co-editor of Gingerbread House Literary Magazine. Her poetry has been published in such journals as Alaska Quarterly Review, The Normal School, The Massachusetts Review, and River Styx, among others. Her newest collection, Spellbook of Fruit and Flowers is forthcoming in 2023.