by Cate Whetzel

 “There is a train inside this iris” —David St. John

Most beautiful of temples, built-in shimmer
to the petals with the long droop of a mouth
play-acting sad. Glorious face of the flora—
falling open like a witness to a tragedy, or the smile
of a child at a party on sufferance, who knows it.
Iris of soft wisdom, weeping willow madam,
in your sweep you hold the smoking machines
of my destruction—I hear it coming. Nightly
the whistle, the shudder of twin fans
that cover your eyes like the wings that hide
a seraph’s face as he floats over a sea of red coal.
Flower incarnate—Iris, organ, seat of beauty,
pump of oxygen! Your tick genteel
as the station master’s watch. I see it approaching:
steaming like a racehorse with smoke reversing
in the white wax chimneys, clean as a candy.
It comes like cords of rain in spring, it comes
like lightning. Slow, train, I feel the shearing
sparks inside me; they hurt, they spur my
hand to reach, to speak what you need to know:
My train is here. Take me where you need to go.

CATE WHETZEL lives on the north side of Chicago with her fiance, poet Ben Debus, and a growing collection of bric-a-brac. During the academic year, she teaches poetry in the city’s public schools through The Poetry Center of Chicago’s Hands on Stanzas program. Her book reviews have appeared in Indiana Review and The Other Journal, and poetry in Breakwater Review; new poetry is forthcoming from The National Poetry Review.