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/ross white

Purple Lilacs

a variation on Rebecca Hazelton and Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach

Fact: Petals of purple lilac bloom on old wood— if early, a double magenta.

Myth: Firmament, its fine blue mid-season varietal, carries on with apple blossom and wood lily.

Fact: We were never meant to be one shade of purple together. Deer will graze on the leaves, rabbits on the bark. Cold will come too soon.

Myth: The lilac cries salt.

Fact: When you are outside, the gardens darken, petals wilt. When you come indoors, the bed curdles black.

Myth: Burn the bed, burn the buds which open toward nourishment in any form.

Fact: We would not need much to survive. The cuttings could flourish.

Myth: It would be better to live in drought, to grow above it.

Is The Root Of All


“Money can’t buy friends, but you can get a better class of enemy.” —Spike Milligan

& the enemies, a better class of weapon: polearms, siege hooks, mantlets.

As you drowse fortified under mosquito netting, your breath less shallow, your sheets crisp,

crying out your dream of castle walls & the oils you once drizzled upon invaders,

the rain of blaze arrowed down upon them & their howls as they tore off helm & glove,

new enemies slither in, adorned in soft moccasins, to slice your heaving throat.

& as you shore & steel the defenses, such cruelty advances the era.

We were made to hurt each other for the promise of abundance, silks & fruits.

My tongue turned viper as, the other night, we argued about money,

but haven’t we murdered each other often over the blood diamond on your ring finger?

Ross White is the author of Charm Offensive, winner of the 2019 Sexton Prize, and two chapbooks. He is the director of Bull City Press, an independent publisher of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, and the editor of Four Way Review. He teaches creative writing and grammar at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is the associate director of The Frost Place Conference on Poetry. His poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, New England Review, Poetry Daily, Tin House, and The Southern Review, among others. Follow him on Twitter: @rosswhite.

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