Brenda Mann Hammack

from The Doomed Queens Paper Dolls series
after Kris Waldherr

Zenobia in the Garden

The grownups cared less about Zenobia, warping in the garden, hem bent, helmet plume past tense: last-week’s bloom. If she hadn’t nicked her breast plate with her javelin, then, bosom wound might be garter snake inflicted. Else the gardener, worst for peach schnapps, secateured her accidently, so the girl inferred as she tilted magnifier. If she couldn’t rule Palmyra, then, Zenobia would forsake those bad intentions, hawk-infested world. She’d have thrown herself from tree house, where those Romans ruled, saying girls could not be warriors. She’d have valance swirled round torso, slung from branch to earth where she’d moss, dramatically gangrene. Else, she’d recoup nerve, vowing efflorescent vengeance. Damn that pesticidal scourge.

La Mort among the Nasturtiums

If valerian meant Versailles and tuberose Tower of London,
girl expected bougainvillea scaffold somewhere in between.
Why did everybody think of Reaper not as she, but he?
Girl imagined pelvic basket once held maggots, asleep
in squashed fruit. Grandma said raccoons knew bone meal
more evocative—more seductive than food. Girl fingered
mulch like understory, her skin whorls touching paper.
Festoon had been shroud once. Scythe: always accessory.
Machete fashion statement. Girl knew mysteries (mort or,
else, vie) could not be reduced to allegory. So, phalanges
might be fork, over-pronged. Chest: flatter now than any
super-model’s. Crown: skull bone, washed to tea-stain.
In this mumless garden, eyeholes blinkless as cucumber
beetles, she, not he, might dream she is not doomed more
than anyone. La Mort among the nasturtiums. Halo: fly
aphids. Queen of all that stinks.

Brenda Mann Hammack's work has appeared in a variety of journals, including Gargoyle, Caveat Lector, A capella Zoo, Mudlark, The Sow's Ear Poetry Review, Steampunk Magazine, and Arsenic Lobster. Three of her poems have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She also serves as faculty adviser to Glint Literary Journal at Fayetteville State University where she teaches creative writing, children's literature, and women's studies classes.
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