Maya Jewell Zeller

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Maya Jewell Zeller

From the Dictionary of Reclaimed Nouns

Thrashing: (gerund), What Tulips Do

In the rain, or a Plath poem, through their white swaddlings,
like an awful baby,

I remember them as aweful babies

me saying let the placenta stop pulsing please
before you cut it—

still thinking I had power

still living the fantasy of my own river,
only worried about floods and tire marks and the large

hearted death machine at my doorstep, a fish house,
a field of opening face clocks—

my boyfriend’s dad drove a diesel truck
and I wanted to slip behind a sheet with that smell

wanted it in my total body

(It’s been a long time since I rock and rolled)

My awe full babies under the covers after co-sleeping,
their milk mouths still going

I used to lie for an hour watching them hoping
they’d stay asleep so I could Poem and Run

Now they’re wearing their Superman sweatshirts in the mornings
kicking the violin stand finishing book fourteen making eggs

making coffee for me Oh Dear God of Tulips
and I begin to understand my friend whose two sons

have gone to college and are in Nationals the last year of high school
she keeps thinking about how she’ll just move into a condo

and get menopause and then what
but I’ve been considering Ruefle’s skulls and how small

like the ones I saw in Oxford
when I was far from my babies

under the Dodo the lepidoptera the whole catalogue

of once-alive things Hopkins might have called
pied, or Frost might have bent along the row

of straighter, darker trees—

what I’m saying is it doesn’t take a boy
or an ice storm to make you click upon yourself,

and my favorite part of Birches was always
those girls on hands and knees throwing their hair

like my son now with his to his waist asking
questions about what it means

to be married, he’s made a mask
beautiful with sugar skull and blood knife,

vials of it, he’s weird, walking out
into day where My God can’t he be whatever

he wants, that orange hair flung over his head
after the bath,

thrashing in the sun like an opening
flower, a sundisc, an echo in a canyon?


Maya Jewell Zeller reads “From the Dictionary of Reclaimed Nouns Thrashing: (gerund), What Tulips Do”

Maya Jewell Zeller is the author of the interdisciplinary collaboration (with visual artist Carrie DeBacker), Alchemy for Cells & Other Beasts; the chapbook Yesterday, the Bees; and the poetry collection Rust Fish. She is Associate Professor of English at Central Washington University and Poetry Faculty in Western Colorado’s low-residency MFA program, as well as Poetry Editor for Scablands Books. She is currently seeking a publisher for her memoir, Raised by Ferns, as well as her novella, A Few Nondescript Adventures of Some Consequence. Find her on Twitter @MayaJZeller