Botanical Garden Duplex

Built from bricks of red poppy
The short-lived perennial
Two years of invisible war
Warriors carve into their skin
Birthing poinsettia on thighs
And with pineapple sage
They anchor fear to hyacinth wrists
With a hand full of spades
Instead of hearts, the warriors carve
Trenches of scarlet carnations
And before they can sew
Garnet daylilies across their lips
The poppy blossoms splay
Seeds of opium on silent tongues
The seeds sprout spikes
Augmenting their mouths with diseased cacti
Words blacken from the sap
And they spit poisonous spores in the air
From here I scream through the screen door
Dig up the weeds, you can’t breathe!
But I only see arms in decorative swing
Desperate to touch something in bloom.

I trace the bend of your vertebrate
To a wilting collarbone
Until my fingers are covered
In the oil of burning leaves.

Charlene Ashley Taylor earned a BA in English with a Minor in Linguistics from the University of Louisville. She’s a former editor of The White Squirrel and mentor for the Sarabande Writing Labs. Her work has appeared in Limestone Journal, Coe Review, Transcendent Zero Press, The Bitter Oleander, The Chaffey Review, Yellow Chair Review, Spry Literary Journal, and others. She is currently a MA student in English at the University of Louisville, working as a Graduate Teaching Assistant in the University Writing Center and interns as a leading editor with Miracle Monocle.