Barbara Cully


after Rafael Alberti's "Metamorphosis of the Carnation"

By the sea and the desert in my middle years,
I wanted to be a dove.

All the estuaries and grasses were made of wings-
so like my dove.

Those high-arcing feathers burnished by the sun:

At the roofline-lover: listen to my lazy coos
(me, wanting to be a dove).

A two-legged girl wakes in its lungs-
in the lungs of a dove.


What do I have in my mouth?
(I hope it turns into a tongue for you.)

What do I have in my hair?
(I hope it turns into a hand for you.)

What do I have in my hand?
(I hope it turns into a beach for you.)

What do I have on my beach?
(I hope the wind-and a song for you.)


The crow asked for paper,
dimpled like fields,
fields that were erupting in the meadow.

"I want to be a writer just for one day.
Phone me at dusk."
(The children did not call him.)

He scraped and he scratched-
but he never lifted back
to the sky.


The pelican made a grave error:
It was mistaken.

To go forward it went backward.
It thought that sunlight was tomato fields.

It thought that salt water was the sky, that violet
was noon, that dusk was the pinnacle of day.

It thought that Juniper's moons
were your teeth, that my shirt

was your heart, and that when you bled
I covered you-and you slept.


"I am dying!" screamed the parakeet
from the roadside sale.

"My breath, my last!" it called
and coughed.

No sounds from the river of cars-
except the sounds

of distant rivers and cars.
"I am here-calling!"

called the parakeet
from its only home.


At dawn the dogs shake me and shake me

The echo of the world come back to me in a dog's voice

It called me to the patio where the lemon tree-

It called me to the hibiscus where the lemon-

It called me to the bougainvillea where the peach-sprouts

its unexpected four blossoms-pink

from a dying branch.

No-not dying: Pink

from its one-blossoming



There now—there now,
now: The crow in the field

where we expected—the crow
in the field. If the monastery on the hill—

the twirling cat
as the solitary self—and the solo self

as the whole house