My mouth is a bowl full of pitted cherries. My stomach the bucket for all the swallowed bloody pits. Every word tastes sweet and dark and tart on my tongue, rolling against my blushing cheeks. And when I smile, red love dribbles down my chin.
When I speak, I am tempted to sing like the way the bright pink blossoms burst into bloom in the springtime. The air is fragrant with love and sweetness and honeybees. But at the lightest breeze, fragrant with daffodils and shadows, my flowers fall
in clusters trembling, and I remember the splinters in the black bark of the cherry tree, the amber sap dripping down the exposed inner rings. The long weeping, the unfurling of flowers. And while the axe is out of sight I fear for other trees, and my branches still shake hearing lightning
the way the blackbirds picked the cherries at the top of the treetop, claiming the green canopy as their own each misty summer morning. The way cherries stain everything they touch when split open. I thought it was my fault the cherries drooped so low, so ripe, so seductive. I thought it was my fault, so I pressed my fingers into each fruit until it bruised black, until I could claw the hard pit out with my nails, enchanted by just how honest the dark red the juice stained my fingers.
I remember when I loved the feel of my voice, but now I taste such bitterness my throat burns. A sour cherry eaten whole. I swallowed the pit myself. This is the dark I am growing within. This is the seed that will bloom unafraid of its own sweetness and hurt.
Cherry stones sit heavy in the bottom of my stomach, churning and sprouting in the dark.
I miss my wilderness more than anything.
The wildflowers bloomed into an owl who bloomed into me.
Call me bird-of-doom, corpse wife, screecher of the night. Call me Flower-faced. A cloak of feathers dark and silver and gold, and black eyes against a face of snowy white. Made of starlight and shadowed forests and meadows singing with wildflowers. And all the blood of growing. I tell of belladonna, of azalea, of mountain laurel, of hawthorn blossoms to make myself deadly sick with love. Oak, broom, and meadowsweet tumble from my tongue.
My body has never known springtime.
Although, sometimes I remember the warmth of flowers as they raise their heads towards the first light of morning. The chorus of sunny daffodils and shy snowdrops, rising overnight against the frost. The purple crocuses blushing within the dark ivy. The catkins dangling from the oak trees and how they learned to fly on the warming breeze. I learned to fly from falling and learned to sing with chickweed and phlox the same color as the sky. The anticipation of mountain laurel, curving and twisting its branches out to reach me with a promise of regrowth each spring.
The pain of outgrowing them too early. My fingers fumbled to craft daisy chains, a crown of dandelions withering in my hair. I missed the eclipse of spring while plucking petals from roses asking for love. I kissed hawthorn blossoms until my lips reddened, the taste of blooming hazy with sunshine and chlorophyll. Their black thorns pulled me back down into the earth as though begging me to stay through autumn. Pressed against the soil, hair knotted with mud and twigs, my insides rotting in the dark. I tried to vomit honey like the honeybee just to prove my insides were capable of sweetness, but instead coughed up pellets of fur and claws and bones.
Somewhere in my chest where I feared the dark a seed breaks open, an ache blooms, deepening and ascending, deathless and fertile.
Not of flowers, but feathers. Unashamed of softness, wings spread open beneath moonlight, glowing silver and black, and unashamed of death, claws seize upon prey in the undergrowth, snapping bones into pieces. Blood the color of flower buds. I trust my breastbone to protect my heart, to sturdy my wings for freedom. I have given myself flight.
My roots grow up as owl feathers, and I hear the whistle of birdsong through my hollow bones. If nothing else, I know owls come from flowers. I emerge from the earth and take to the sky, my heart growing from soil ever dark and rich as the night sky, expanding with all the beauty of green and bones and moonlight.
Sinews and wildflowers tangle in my talons: This is the bloody gore of springtime.
Kate Dlugosz is a writer from Cleveland, Ohio. She holds a BA in Creative Writing from Hiram College, and her work has appeared in Dear Damsels.