“Between the eye of the sun and the eyes of the tulips,
And I have no face, I have wanted to efface myself.” —Sylvia Plath
My daughter dreams of dogs, saliva like glossy tripwire. As the pack circles her bed,
showing teeth, she readies (red as the desire for red) her face for impact, menace
of a fiction that feels real. She wakes & screams, eyes glissando from darkness to
darkness, I come, I say: “In your house, in your bed, nothing can hurt you-
I have been avoiding this
poem. I don’t want to be
pulled under the wheels of—
I want to write
about my daughter, who I think could live forever :: unscathed, smiling
if I can just love her enough,
remind her of everything that is:
kisses of sunrise, the hushed way
Jo, my daughter, is
not you but she is
Joah: a simple, obscure Biblical name,
masculine, yet suicide is women’s
work: trill of impact, your eyelet dress blooms rust
as the Amtrak “Cardinal” separates you & nothing &
can hurt you.
“What is the point of dreams, anyway?” Jo asks.
She holds me hard, arms soft hooks (as if clinging could save us), I kiss & kiss her
nightmare until it oxidizes clear:
red pink girl this—
Hush—cadence of dissolving.
It’s all right, but (let’s be clear) you should have lived, you lived with cousins who kept
you: clean & confident, Peter Pan collars stiff as a board, light as a feather. Your older
sister, Thea, was sent to (this feels like fiction) Aunt Icy Leona who spoke to her as if
she was already dead, who put my grandmother in charge of the household laundry, left
alone as long as the washboard & soap flakes did their work. Red-eye :: stain, release.
Midwestern Cinderella. A songbird with teeth.
Jo: diminutive of Josephine, feminine of Joseph.
She will add/give/increase. I named my daughter
after that outspoken March daughter, a novel
I loved when I thought I couldn’t love anyone
more than my mother. We inherit this desire to take
life :: an affectionate mother, this—
day of April. Red tulips rise
outside my window, the cling
of my :: death-breath, poem, (you & not you) girl
trills in the next room, softly
like feathers or fur, or lucid dreams,
or how you imagine
everything could have been.
Caroline Beltz-Hosek received her M.A. in Poetry from SUNY Brockport. A former assistant editor at Penguin Putnam, she has taught creative writing and literature at SUNY Geneseo since 2006. Her poems have been published in The Fourth River and Minetta Review. Additionally, she was awarded a 2018 Incentive Grant from the Geneseo Foundation for “The Long Diminishing Parade,” a poetry collection based in part on her maternal ancestors, which explores topics of motherhood, mental illness, alienation and the immigrant experience, and the role that place—real and imagined, personal and historical—plays in shaping identity and creative expression.