Terrible Blooms

Terrible Blooms

by Melissa Stein

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Overview

"Ms. Stein reminds us that there is no honey—rough, or otherwise—without the sting." — The New York Times

In this lush, disturbing second collection from Melissa Stein, exquisite images are salvaged from harm and survival. Set against the natural world’s violence—both ordinary and sublime—pain shines jewel-like out of these poems, illuminating what lovers and families conceal. Stein uses her gifts for persona and lyric richness to build worlds that are vivid, intricate, tough, sexy, and raw: "over and over // life slapping you in the face / till you’re newly burnished / flat-out gasping and awake." Breathless with risk and redemption, Terrible blooms shows how loss claims us and what we reclaim.

"[Melissa Stein’s] sentences are beautifully choreographed; they start and stop the motion of her poems with a nearly invisible, effortless authority." —Mark Doty

"[Stein’s] electric apprehensions throb with this nearly preverbal knowing. They are rough as a hound’s tongue. . . . Stein is a new poet of the first order." —Molly Peacock

Quarry

As you slept

I was thinking about the quarry,

about light going deeper


into earth, into rock, the hurt

• f light hitting layers

that should be hidden,

that should be buried,

and how when it rained

for a long time that absence filled

with suffering, and we swam.

Melissa Stein ’s debut collection Rough Honey won the APR/Honickman First Book Prize. She holds an MA in creative writing from the University of California at Davis, and is a freelance editor and writer in San Francisco.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781556595295
Publisher: Copper Canyon Press
Publication date: 04/17/2018
Pages: 96
Sales rank: 1,169,706
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.80(h) x 0.40(d)

About the Author

Melissa Stein’s debut collection Rough Honey won the APR/Honickman First Book Prize, selected by Mark Doty. She has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Bread Loaf, Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, and the Djerassi Resident Artists Program, and her work has won awards from Spoon River Poetry Review, Literal Latte, and the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Foundation, among others. She holds an MA in creative writing from the University of California at Davis, and is a freelance editor and writer in San Francisco.

Read an Excerpt

PORTRAIT OF MY FAMILY AS A PACK OF CIGARETTES

I’d barter your life
for a brief orange
flame and a lungful

of peace. My whole family
was like that, tobacco-
stained, curling

a little at the edges.
Singed. Whenever
the wind rose, a few

blew away, easy
as an exhale, and we let go
in the way one does

with paper, smoke.
Until the box lay
empty, on its side,

in some dump. Now and then
cold hands would
fumble it, in hope.



MILK

The nurse has made up the bed so crisply.
Tucked the corners’ origami
soundly into the aluminum frame.

Your lips glisten, moistened with a square
of sponge. I hold your hand—weightless
thing of parchment and twig—

no more your daughter than a seed
cast from hoof-split rattlegrass, no more than
an asterisk sprung from thistle, caught, wished upon,

let go. I inhale the antiseptic scent of bay,
of balsam. Rooted here, in this cheap plastic chair,
as if I’ll miss something,

as if my missing it would matter.
Just as—branch-snap to feeding deer, wing-shadow
to the scuttling mouse—it has always mattered.

The window frames a square of light
white and blameless as milk. I turn from you
and drink, and drink, and drink.



SLAP

I want to write my lover a poem
but a very very bad one. It will include
a giant squid and some loose change

and cufflinks and two blue ferries chugging
headfirst on the East River at twenty-six knots
and only at the last minute averting

disaster through quick thinking and sure reflexes. Also
a bow and arrow and glossy red apple
I perch in front of my heart. To be honest

my lover doesn’t like poetry
which I guess is why I plan to write
such a bad one, so he can feel right

and strong and good in his beliefs.
Tonight when I go see my lover
he’ll hold me as I’ve never been held

except by him and then I’ll have to give him
back. When you get new things
you treat them like glass for a while

and then get used to them
and manhandle them
like everything else.

I don’t want to give him back
but partly it’s not up to me
and partly I don’t want to be his

old sofa. I want to radiate and gleam
arrestingly until the certain, premature
end. You can compose a whole life

out of these rollercoasters.
You can be everywhere
and nowhere, over and over

life slapping you in the face
till you’re newly burnished
flat-out gasping and awake.



BEAST

Tadpole with legs.
Hawk with a long tail
that is a snake
dangling from its beak.
The apple limb
grafted to the plum tree,
blue Mustang
with the dull white hood,
Ken with the head of Barbie.
The boy with a new plump fist
of heart or kidney
or some shining pins or discs
or a thick, imperative tube
fastening a mechanism
of breath. What’s wrong
with me is you.

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