Kateri Lanthier

Georgia O’Keeffe, Series 1, No. 8, 1919

Dear Fleurs

   I hate flowers – I paint them because they’re cheaper than models and they don’t move.
   -Georgia O’Keeffe

Sorry for being your pornographer, flowers.
I snatch dewy closeups. Lavish shots
on dripping, intertwined fresh stems.
I anthropomorphize, yank you into the human.
Swoon at your scent, cut you down, lock you up
in crystal vases with just enough water.
Post you online to the hungry
who howl at your delicate folds, your brazen hues.
The damnable camera phone in my pocket
on my solitary walks — stalker walks – I, well,
I’m never without it, hand drifting to pocket,
feeling myself reaching for the means of capture.
You can’t even scratch a living
from my exploits, thorny ones, you’re simply
my starry-eyed spoils. My gorgeous dead.
Your abject pimp, I apologize.
Wish I had the courage to talk about the bees.

Georgia O’Keeffe, Flower Abstraction (1924)


Silver pendant, amulet immured.
The technician cut out
without a word, leaving blur
on screen and bluntness
to the ob-gyn: “12 weeks.
No heartbeat. Whatever happened
happened in the last day.”

I was a reliquary
on the Queen streetcar.
Holding my breath
up to our red front door
now monumental,
now loose on the hinge.
Lying to the sitter.
Crying into the nest
of my 14-month-old’s hair.
Shock dried my milk.
He nursed in vain.
(I was so greedy.
I wanted another.)
Within, a not-ever
while tenses smashed.
We dread-slept. I woke
to a single contraction
like a throttled sob.

Crouching, playing against a trickle
of blood, fearing a flood, floored
with the toddler, all I recall
from ABC to D&C
is being asked like a child
“You know it’s dead? You understand?
And the wait for my “yes.”

Yes, I would wait here
in a hall grown huge.
Slight gown, paper slippers.
Cheap costume for ritual.
Hands folded, head up
until they put me under.
Missed miscarriage:
a silent…Silence.
My breath, in and out.

Kateri Lanthier is a poet, essayist, and reviewer. Her poems have been published in many journals, including The Fiddlehead, Event, Hazlitt, Green Mountains Review, Arc, Grain, Great Lakes Review, Best Canadian Poetry 2014, and the Literary Review of Canada. She won the 2013 Walrus Poetry Prize and third prize in the London-based Troubadour International Poetry Prize in 2016. She is a Mentor in the MA in English in the Field of Creative Writing, University of Toronto. Her essay “Lifelines: Of Heart, Lungs, Blood, and Ghazals” was included in the anthology Against Death: 35 Essays on Living (ed. Elee Kraljii Gardiner, Anvil Press, 2019; Montaigne Medal finalist). Her books are Reporting from Night (Iguana, 2011) and Siren (Signal Editions, Véhicule Press, 2017), which was longlisted for the 2018 Pat Lowther Memorial Award. Poems from Siren have been included in four anthologies.

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Spring 2021