DIATOMHERO: RELIGIOUS POEMS BY LISA A. FLOWERS
DESCRIPTION: diatomhero is, among other things, a "deconstruction of myth and elements"—a surrealist study of reincarnation via a tapestry of cinema, religion, and art that periodically drops its stitches, only to take them up again on a whim 100 or 10,000 years later. A hybrid of past and present lives mashed into a Rorschach blot, it's a maneuvering of continuation into the corporeal, non-corporeal, and bizarre—a eulogy that transforms trauma and sorrow into the fantastic, and has no fewer than six film screenings (and incarnations, from spider to soldier to hare to lilies to girl) going on in no fewer than six centuries at any given time.
"I thought extended metaphor was downright flaccid until I read diatomhero. The poetry in this collection presents constructive problematic sequences equally personal and impersonal, which is difficult to pull off; but here's the rub: instead of abandoning those problems as most poems do, these pieces amass levels, monorails, concourses, moats, and a long drawbridge featuring lamp bulbs that increase wattage as your vehicle passes under them, so by the incline's decline, just for a split second, you can see jellyfish n the body of the water and ... sometimes ... all the Hittite goddesses."
- Jeffrey Hecker, author of Rumble Seat and Hornbook
FROM DIATOMHERO: RELIGIOUS POEMS
I was two places at once:
One side of my body bleeding indistinguishably into Oneness, like an inkblot,
The other sketching the actual picture,
Past and present lives
Back to back, in a Star Wars trash compactor.
After awhile I opened my napkin and recognized myselves,
Two Versailles rivals turning fans to each other’s disdain,
A flattened hydra peeling itself off a window,
“Beast turning human,” like Nora Flood’s lover.
But there were no sounds,
Languages rushing at me, like insects
Suddenly displaced from recognition,
Czech buzzing into my left ear, like a swarm of flies,
German booming out into the forest,
The dullness of tomato plants
Buzzing with flies
That had no sound or life
In either dimension,
A photograph of what my perception had looked like when it had been mine.
So I didn’t know if I weren’t a
Soldier, hidden among the tall marshes,
Dressed in one of those grass suits
Or Miss Jessel, beckoning across the river:
A brute’s opaque smear coming up the other side of a retina filmed over
As frosted glass, behind which he still moved with his candles
Suddenly running clear,
Like the eyes of the first people
Before ancestry polluted them
Little shoots of green coming up, in the Original Dark Eye of Jerusalem
To make hazel
With its hope of fecundity through the earth.
They said, after the war, we lost each other
I said, after our deaths, we lost each other
Refugees, displaced persons
I had no way of knowing I’d not just picked an armful of my
Daughter, reborn as lilies
For an Easter bouquet,
That my son wasn’t a dog
Busily digging his old human bones up out of the earth
And gnawing on them;
One of a flight of Canadian geese
Circling over the airports where the dying swallow their memories as drug mules,
shit them out and break them open in the next life,
Like Aesop’s golden egg
The freezing looking into photographs of a sun that can’t warm them
The starving looking into photographs of food they can’t eat
Knowing that they can no longer stretch out the past
As a frugal mother stretches out meat and potatoes
From casserole to stew.
With ever more mouths to feed,
Until five hundred lives cannot consume the rations for one,
And we are too menny.
But even in one life
When I said, “I can’t live without you”
It meant a lifespan in a body
I could not live without
that kept changing
Into a different body.
As if I were committing adultery
On the you of 21 with the you of 51.
Appropriating someone else’s love
And calling it mine
So that, at eighty
I couldn’t wish to stand dazed, in the photograph of myself on the street we lived on in 1950
A sepia handkerchief that had once been red in my lapel
Without simultaneously being a widower, lying awake nights, weeping
Shooting blanks into the air
That might fertilize whatever was
Left of you, in the air around me,
Engendering little ghost children
Who would peer at me, noses against “the transparent glass of the world”
Like urchins at Christmas displays
Faces all plastered with ectoplasm, like sticky jam.
Prelude to the moment
When a soldier, dying on the battlefield in ancient Greece
Flows into his reincarnation as a
Girl, blonde and Norwegian, in the high country
His life wrenched out of him like a discus
That goes flailing off to the Lord
Trailing roots, black against the sky
As reincarnation only on the
Rebound, like love
The solar eclipse picking up our images like a Xerox
Albeit in a delayed assembly;
In “millions of tiny pieces,” like Mike Teavee
The invisible, becoming durable as humidity,
And just as scientifically proven: an element inciting a reaction: sweat, an increase of insects,
Anything indigenous to a climate
And just as wonderfully taken for granted
By those who exist under it
Dying to and in that as naturally, casually as: the sun.
We knew it rose on the other side of the world
But we didn’t care
Any more than any more than a sluggish reptile in Texas
Is aware of the vast majesty of the land stretching around it
To Nebraska, or The Rockies, or the Badlands
Or anywhere but the corner on earth in which it is tucked away.
Plants in Australia
Turn to the sun only on the continent they’re indigenous to
and know no more about Antarctica than the polar fishes about the Kalahari
Any more than two incarnations of the same person, one centuries ago, one now
Her hair flying back into his face like a Springsteen song
Know which is “the real” them
Stuffed with mirrors
Donning contact lenses with every other life,
The original color always under the new;
Each eye reflecting the life it inhabits:
A fret of Russian cloud sliding across your iris one life,
Birds in a perfectly blue sly, en route across Minnesota, in another
Genealogy turning on a color wheel
The weight of a soul
Up and down, like Liz Taylor’s size;
Deprivation stuffing abundance into every other life
One bloodline exsanguinated,
The next offering it a transfusion.
Lisa A. Flowers, raised in Los Angeles and Portland, OR, is a Colorado-based poet, critic, cinephile, ailurophile, synesthete, and eccentric. Her work has appeared in various magazines and online journals. Visit her here.