Bayley Van

Ice Plant and Yarrow
Take a cut of ice plant.
Place it
in your mouth. Let
it drink until your tongue is
as dry as this sandy, arid dirt.
I did not ask you to come here.
I did not ask you to drink my
tap water and eat my summer fruit.
This orange was grown in Bakersfield.
It blushed,
soft and red, in
the hot sun there but
here it has bittered,
turned hard—
You say you miss
the blister-heat. Here
the earth is fine,
like cornmeal. It
will chap your skin, and
it is cold
the way
All we can grow is
ice plants and
the tough stalks of
white-blooming yarrow.
Once I split the tip
of my finger on the
rough, grey stem.
You say
you miss the flowers with
dark veins through their
bright petals that stain
your hands. I think
you should go home and
pick some.
Set them
in a glass
of water in your kitchenette.
Drink a cup of orange juice.
Kiss a
tall, blonde girl
with your wet mouth.
Leave me hanging
yarrow to dry
in my bedroom:
the pendulous white fluffs of
a thousand sour, tiny,
needle-eye blossoms
swinging overhead.
Leave me to
dig for a sharp root,
moving salt and soil
with my now-calloused hands.

Her skin is blue like cheese.
Is her breast,
beneath her heavy, velvet
dress, dappled in freckles like
overripe fruit? I wonder
because her lips look a
peach not turning—
still pale and hard and green.
Fruit in
summer shade rots bitter
into the heavy sting of wine it
will stain the lace of her collar like
my lipstick. I marred the white plane of
her stomach when I kissed her there.
If I am
dried grass: warm, underfoot and
she is a plastic gallon
jug of milk
no longer
hot from the body. She does not freckle
she softens. I feel the small fat pearls under her skin
and I wonder
if my burning hands have spoiled her.

When We Grew Rice
One morning I found, in
my waking mind,
an unbrushed bud of cotton
and a sweet piece
of dried fruit. When I look
at my body I wonder what binds me
to the people before me like a
red thread tied, taut, to pins in a
paper map. I’m sure my ancestors have
traveled the veins of the world and
let blood from her dark wrist and held their
mouths over a deep cut to staunch
her bleeding—
been a leech attached
to her jugular by medieval
doctor wearing
beaked mask. I am sure
we have run barefoot and burned
great swaths of golden land—
never turned the soil over—
never let groundwater see
the sun. I am sure my child was
lost in a flood after a long,
blighting rain and I am sure
that has happened before, many
times. I am sure my ancestors are two
undulating lines touching at points of a single human life once—
They were brothers who
squeezed hands and walked
very far and lost each other then found each other
or they were lovers who
had a child who was lost in a flood and another
child who died on a cold night and whose body
was planted in a field of corn
or rice and another child who lived and
under the tall, bending
of some crop
of summer.

Bayley Van is a young freelance writer who lives in the eclectic city of San Francisco, California. Her work explores instability through nature and interpersonal relationships. She has been previously published in Synchronized Chaos, Umlaut, Em, and Aryis.