Robyn Maree Pickens | ELEGY, 2nd Place Winner of the Vallum Poetry Award 2021


it was lunchtime & you sliced pale not scarlet bananas onto bread
our lungs were the scent of fruiting as we sank our baby teeth into sweet

our lungs were young & sprinkled sugar was our first illicit
the scent of mother, brother, & I wound deep into my limbic system

desiccant now is the scent of mother & brother so I reach for sweet water
as I remember that night we lay in single beds the size of overgrown teeth

when I was mineral for the last time (to you) / the thin of you lying
a crystalline striation plying your spine / I could not reach you again

the scent of mineral overgrew you & your sisters in the Dead Sea
in the high floating of your youth & salt grasped you like a lover

& yes in a fissure of sweet water meeting salt I would be held so
but a daughter is weighed & found wanting / she is inedible

to float in the Sea of Salt you worked in an office full of smoke
that entered you & lay down in the fissures of your lungs

& your spine became mutable & wounded to stand to shuffle
but in death you were a fountain of scarlet on white sheets

& the avocadoes on the table were black & frothing at the nub
& I inhaled you to blood / scent of humid scent of overripe

a daughter is an air-filled organ who must throw avocadoes away
who reads what she should not who holds a photo of her mother floating

it is night now & I cradle the container of you like a lover
to cut the plastic I had to buy a knife (& a pale orange melon)

the knife is blunt & in the dark I taste my own salt
until finally reek of animal / clutch of gravelled bones striate the air

& I lay your weightless lungs gently on the brackish water
a daughter is mordant to night as she walks back to her hotel

Robyn Maree Pickens is an art writer, poet, and a critical/creative PhD candidate in ecopoetics at the University of Otago (Aotearoa New Zealand). Robyn’s poetry has appeared in the Brotherton Poetry Prize Anthology (Carcanet Press), Fractured Ecologies (eyecorner press), Jacket 2 (US), Cordite (Australia), Landfall (NZ), Into the Void (Canada), Peach Mag (US), Plumwood Mountain (Australia) and at ARTSPACE, Auckland (NZ).

This poem will appear in Vallum 19:1, “Bridges.”