Flower Conroy

The Weight of a Hummingbird

It’s known as desairology—the art of
making the deceased appear
less lifeless—but I can’t help hearing
in it an echo of desire that’s more
unnerving than formaldehyde’s
antechamber perfume.

Nancy attended the hair
as I deepened the puce
of the eyelids,
customized a lavender-mauve
pigment to match her—in life
chain-smoking lips.

From its small height, the comb
dropped & the sound
of its having fallen cut the air
into ribbons of lilac like a soft rain.
Then dim-lit & cool, the room—
seeped in carnation, hoarfrost,

cloud of lily?—returned to its faintly
floral quiet.  I dusted her dark
vellus—peach fuzz—with blush,
I shellacked her nails
her favorite shade of purple.
When I encountered the scalpel

poised in Huerta’s
“Poem By Gottfied Benn,”
I misunderstood it as the flower
& not the body
about to be anatomized,
as if a laurel wreathed the surgeon’s brow

& its petals loosened
& feathered down,
littering the pearl ribs
& strewing the table.
“Even the medic’s rubber gloves
were covered with petals

& blood it was
utterly breathtaking.”  The word
utterly, balmy as frog skin,
moldering baby’s breath.
And the word breath-
taking, like a vine-threading-

barbed-wire.  Cadaver.  Coroner.
I think salad colder language
for garden, & death-reader
a noctiflorous name for
forensic examiner; doctor.
Coroner, derived from colonel,

from keep the pleas of the Crown;
crown with its roots in corona;
corona as in halo, as in yolk
slipping away from its center.
Two mirrors facing each other
in a room create the illusion

of tangible infinity.  It was as if
the blade’s mere intention
impelled the petals to ghost
the incision, a flowerbomb
deliriant with tendril & sillage—
sillage from projection or wake.

The flower fell apart,
the dead woman lay
on the steel table.
Organ-garland splitting
beneath the deft fingers, the corpse
opening like a rose within a rose.

LGBTQ+ writer and former Key West Poet Laureate, Flower Conroy is the author of the chapbooks Facts About Snakes & Hearts, The Awful Suicidal Swans, and Escape to Nowhere.  Her first full-length manuscript, Snake Breaking Medusa Disorder was chosen by Chen Chen as the winner of the National Federation of State Poetry Societies’ Stevens Manuscript Competition.  Her poetry has appeared in New England Review, Prairie Schooner, Michigan Quarterly Review and other journals.