BRIGHT AND DANGEROUS

by Roberta Williams

I birthed a stillborn in the dream. In the morning, I named her Blaise, meaning lisp or stutter. You're

not a sad person, my lover said to get me out of bed, just like he said, rivers can't be motionless. But

the Olentangy is stagnant. At the pebbled edge, flies circle a deer. A tattered body is bloated.

What should a person do when something dies in them? I ask a daylily burning behind the carcass. Should I

pluck you, preserve you before you die on your own? Should I press you, dead and vibrant, between pages?

The Delaware tribe named this river stone for your knife stream, and every day I walk along the bank

until my neck and back hurt from bending, from collecting sandstone, quartzite, granite, and shale.

What I really want is a knife for the lilies, bright and dangerous, stammering in wind.

HOW TO RECYCLE

by Roberta Williams

Start basic, get chummy with the blue bin:

toss JIF jars, cartons of expired Greek yogurt,

Time Warner Cable offers, and bottom-shelf

bottles of Malbec. Soon you'll convert V-necks

into macramé hanging planters and piles

of 5K-tees into mini-headbands with nautical knots

for friends' baby showers. Alone at night,

you'll Netflix and latch hook rugs from strips

of ill-fitting dresses. By February, your closet

will be pristine, and your homespun mat

will greet snowy boots. When your litter-scoop

breaks, eat three bowls of Cheerios and cut

a shovel from the empty milk jug. Bottle caps

can be candles for your Buddhist friend's morning

meditations. The busted ukulele you neglected

to learn can be tacked on an elm for robins,

cardinals, and small yellow finches. Exchange

morning sadness for more—for bluebells

placed on strangers' windshields or Dad's

bright laughter on the phone. Let in back-road wind

past unfamiliar cornfields to some podunk town

with surprisingly good coffee and strawberry

French toast. Find the giant sycamore by the roadside,

shedding at daybreak to grow even more.

DROUGHT YEARS

by Roberta Williams

This year I've killed two succulents,

English ivy, and a tufted cactus

reminiscent of an old man with wispy hair.

My brother says I'm more

destructive than the Sahara—

but he forgets laundry, forgets meals

just like I do. Forget your feelings,

my brother advised the summer I discovered

panic attacks. They aren't reality.

Believing him seemed to reduce

us to family echoes, seemed inescapable.

Grandpa smiles only when working

in his garden, pulling weeds between clusters

of poppies and nibs of asparagus.

In my family, we tend only what is concrete.

When Grandma was a teenager, her father's barn

burnt down. He was never the same after that,

she said, quieting when Grandpa pattered

into our kitchen, feet thudding linoleum

in faded socks. In drumbeats and silences,

I keep finding my mother alone

in her study, surrounded by piles

of books, clicking keys to prune pages

and pages of words she won't let me read.

A fern hangs in her bright windowsill,

withered but not yet dead.

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ABOUT ROBERTA

Roberta Williams studied English at Ohio State University and graduated in 2016. She has been a barista for ten years (which may or may not feel like a curse). Her poetry deals with origins and incorporates lots of plant-life indigenous to Ohio.