Magnolia

by Marie Chambers

abloom before bees existed    who named
you beauty    why do I stand on your brown
petals    splayed open on my ancestral

earth    ancient ivory breed    tree/flower
who designated you my knee-jerk servant/
symbol    married you to a nonnative

landscape    genus lost beneath
the horizon where ambitious men captured
the youngest stars

chained them to wooden wings
forced backs and arms to break
ripple and flow

whose handkerchief did you fall forth
from    how did your seed stow away
on the slave ship and live

a compass whirled inside its tiny cage

arrows trimmed in gold decoded
an ocean of measurements
spun a siren’s song

of sunshine contracts remedies visions
fairer than the silk and gossip
of any homeland

my tribe lives where the wind flung you

your creamy faces
float above our velvet funeral dresses
sway beyond the reach of our cement angel

guardian of my grandfather’s bloodless body
his mahogany box with brass handles
his confederate flag

magnolias in full bloom straddle the last of us
their thick-skinned leaves scrape
against each other    clocks being wound

I hold my grandfather’s pocket watch
magnolia blossoms adorn the cover
a knot of silver in my palm

Marie Chambers is a Southerner by birth and an Angeleno by choice.  She is a recent graduate of the professional writing program (MFA in Poetry) at Bennington College in Bennington Vermont.  When not chasing her own words, Marie earns her daily bread running a Los Angeles art gallery where she writes almost everything but never signs her name.