Poetry: Barbara Westwood Diehl


The Botanist Lectures, After His Betrayal

Consider the taproots of jimson weed,
the stout stems, leaves with teeth,
sepals cupping the star flower.

Note its corolla of contradiction,
a falconer palming a raptor
in the clothing of a dove.

Often mistaken for morning glory,
nightshade with angel and apple aliases,
also devil’s trumpet, stink weed.

And here is the gardener who rests
between rows of benign fruit,
while seeds squint from pod slits.

The weed is tall as a woman,
with leaves that spindle prick,
pull apples from a sleeve.

Visions of the jimson weed are brief,
false as belladonna, or flowers
that will die in the afternoon.

We Weather Them

The dead have their seasons.
We weather them,
though the winds of them
howl awfully sometimes,

funneling up clouds of  belongings
they think they still need-
an umbrella with broken ribs,
a widowed glove, a haggard coat.

The dead are difficult to forecast.
We can’t reckon or reason with them,
can’t capture their amassing
on satellite photos and weather maps.

We have no gauges or sensors,
no data to justify a watch or warning.
We can only issue advisories
and hope they will be temperate.

We moor the boats, move inland,
indoors, to our interior rooms.
We take all the usual precautions,
but the dead still come

with precipitous entrances,
heat lightning at the screen door
before the downpour, the flooding,
heavy as hailstones,

in the snare of sleet pelleting the glass,
or slowly, snowdrifts in a whiteout,
insidious as black ice,
that first coat.

A Thought Upon Departure from the Body

The current of blood slowing,
the circuit open, off,
vessels tipped, siphoned,
spilled from the cast,
sieve of ribs,
skin livid, fluid
amassing in the back,
the heart billowing,
then sighing itself soft, flaccid,
the bellows of the lungs
expelling themselves lax,
muscles contracted,
pathways snuffed,
at last slackening-
all of it turning to slough-

I thought I would miss
that fierce machinery,
that foundry.

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