Three Poems / by Antonina Palisano

Avoid & Avoid & Avoid

rising from the wreck of the body, I am asking only
for a motive. I.E., 
the impulse of the temp employee
to idly read papers marked Confidential. When whalers
took down a right
whale (so named

because he was the “right” kind
to kill),
they stood in the raft of the corpse
while they stripped it. These bodies, 
given the names of scythes,
monarchs, gods
& girlfriends. The Aurelia
takes the “right” body
off the coast of Prince Edward’s Island. 
I am always the kind

who cuts out early. Others get busy
filling a sack, stripping

& naming: Inverse Desert,
College Tie,
Apartment Argument,
Dumb Scar. I am standing knee-deep
in the insides,
looking for a signed statement

or a precedent. Something 
telling of any reason 

besides avoid
& avoid & avoid.






Often as not                     I kill the orchid
Roots fall awry                       & guileless        damp


sweet          like a child’s         hair         Unanswered
need: song          milk           good warm           loam


the faucet’s hum          Spotted        thing         dead
resigned to        saint        rot         I’m given this


to tend                  for winter               me
no knowledge of            feeding                   or soil


tenderness in any of its forms






Lately I list food 
instead of listing virtue. Mission

fig. Kale, radish,
clementine. There’s an epic on flowers
that resembles a list, written against fever

by a Frankish monk. Fever being cousin
to mania, I listen: balm
of lesser celandine, fennel tincture,

oil of roses. If there’s anything I know to do,
it’s how to grind a bulb
to pulp. It’s April

and the pansy is heartsease. Young man’s fancy
turns to what? I‘ve seen the blight,

a startled gap. You hear stories: 
diabetics wake to find the dog,
gnawing a dead foot. I wait to learn

where it ends. Black hellebore
for infection. Look here: the monk plants
a garden. His list was one of salves,

or of the devil’s features. In either case, 
a fit of pique.





Antonina Palisano is a poet, an amateur archivist, and an MFA candidate at Boston University. Her work is published or forthcoming in the Massachusetts Review, Electric Cereal, Washington Square, Winter Tangerine Review, and the Bellevue Literary Review, among others. She lives in Medford, MA.