Ohio Cento & How To Preserve a Fistful of the Neighbor’s Tulips


Ohio Cento

A world dies when a person dies; who sees
the whole body lifted

with a red X to show it was condemned?
I looked up and there it was.

The only diagram I found online portrayed
faces like houses with the lights shut off

to emphasize what’s there—nothing.
Your body, it is yours to leave behind,

and afterward, the moon stops looking like a moon,
unpolished for months, tarnished as flatware.

From the inside your house shines—
sad, like it’s the last one left of something.

How To Preserve a Fistful of the Neighbor’s Tulips

Take them from your son’s outstretched hand.
Hang then upside-down like hams in a smokehouse
or let them sip in a milk glass vase until

you forget them and they go all Miss Havisham,
shriveled and rust-tipped. Lay them someplace
like a sleeping child. Let them crisp and dull

in gathered dust, and wonder how much
of the dust is you. You know how skin floats
and settles. How we’re disintegrating all the time,

even in this moment. Preserve what you can
of the gesture: your son shining up at you,
four years old, proud of what he doesn’t know

is transgression. But whatever you do, don’t say
I’ll never forget the time when… You’ve seen the sieve
a brain can be. Write it down, all of it, here.

Maggie Smith