The Flame and the Lotus

sylvia blue
(For Sylvia Plath, 1932-1963)
sylvia in chains
and drag: the green-eyed
bee-witch, Ariella,
poised on her
remote blue star,
chilled and unblinking

to the men
she promises
to swallow, whole,
like air

and on the exhale
gothic spells
hummed and cast

animating an army
of faceless mannequins
in white nightgowns
and hospital tags,
the Queen’s foot-soldiers
to cover blank spaces

and in the sky
strikes conducted
by a chorus of killer

notes drawn
from a mourning
undersea inheritance.

Meek and precocious,
the sentence perfectly formed
at a very young age, or as she
once confessed to the page,
“There is a panther stalks me down:
One day I’ll have my death of him.”

So in order to survive,
the girl learned to turn tricks:
played both the magician
and the saw
when she cut herself in half.
The audience cheered
and applauded. More, more!
She was good at this.
She could make a practice
out of public bloodletting.
A half-moon scar
with a hot blade
on the inside
of her right thigh,
where the shadow fell,
just so….
Or, her left thumb, amputated,
and with proper strings attached–
A puppet performing
a macabre skit.

And later on,
if she got really good
at what she did,
she would bravely lay her heart
on the line, and attempt the
known as the Lazarus comeback.
Yes, they’d love her forever
and ever
if she could pull that one

We are in the emergency ward.
A cluster of swollen beehives
like snailshell testicles,
and pairs of miasmic eyes
enmeshed in gauze.

Strobe flash.
Briefly, white
on white: the demystification
of process.
like dirty laundry
piled on the floor,
implicating the Carnival
and its Legions
as thin-skinned and facile,
a terrible fraud.
exposed, turning over
in her stomach–
a stone
is a stone
is a stone—

the Other
is revived,
and the stones recast
find themselves
bats and eyes
and beehives
in the palms
of an ancient sorceress.

Strobe flash,
shuttered, dark
on dark: I am I,
she says, and that’s all
there is

She arrives, numberless, in the city of spare parts,
where the needy and wanting stand in line.
She waits her turn, watching
pairs and floods of hands
working, working,
to mend and reassemble
and jerry-rig what and who they can.
The hands work with mute
sober diligence. They don’t take names.
None of the invalids, cripples,
or maimed
request specific parts
or maintenance.
They take what the hands
give them
and move on.
When it’s her turn
for treatment,
the hands withdraw,
giving way to a colossus
of a Machine, that asks her:
Are you not the girl
The Machine’s rapidly blinking lights,
a cluster of blood-red rubies
embedded in its steel frame,
both mesmerize and frighten her.
Meekly, she responds: I am.
I mean I was.
Or thought I could be.
And now, asked
the Machine.
And now . . . I’m just
me, and I’m not sure
what that’s worth, if anything.
The Machine’s sudden
vibrato roarings
cut into her ears
like an amplified bansaw.
She cannot tell
if the Machine
is laughing
or screaming.

She shuts her eyes
tightly, trying to will herself
far far away from
the Machine,
and the City.

and starless,
she feels
and waves of hands
pulling her down

to be worked on.


One last verse
of blue lightning,

then the sky,
bruised and breathing
recedes softly: the strains
of Mercy.

No more meticulous filing
of bees, no more hands
tied to mirages
or totems
or Tantalus,
no more safecracking
of fixed codes.

No more comebacks.
It is done.

The curtain drawn,
and torn from its
rod, Ariella plays her part
well, covering the shell
of the body
of the nameless little girl

as if in death,
the curtain a cape,
keeping the girl’s remains
warm, and sealed off
from further damage
by Flame.

About John Biscello

Originally from Brooklyn, NY, writer, poet, spoken word performer, and playwright, John Biscello now lives in Taos, New Mexico. He is the author of three novels: Broken Land, a Brooklyn Tale, Raking the Dust, and Nocturne Variations, and a collection of stories, Freeze Tag. His fiction and poetry has appeared in: Art Times, nthposition, The Wanderlust Review, Ophelia Street, Caper, Polyphony, Dilate, Militant Roger, Chokecherries, Farmhouse, BENT, The 555 Collective, Instigator, Brass Sopaipilla, The Iconoclast, Adobe Walls, Kansas City Voices, and the Tishman Review. His blog--Notes of an Urban Stray--can be read at Broken Land, a Brooklyn Tale was named Underground Book Reviews 2014 Book of the Year.
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