The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: The Ministry of Flowers by Andrea Witzke Slot

This selection, chosen by Guest Editor Jordi Alonso, is from The Ministry of Flowers by Andrea Witzke Slot, released by Valley Press in 2020.

An autobiography called skin

Small, red, rinsed, held. Fleshy folds in tiny fists shaken.
Something like blessings dress the pleats of infant skin.

In shared baths, three sisters inspect split knees and stitched chins.
Laughter mixes with broken words, broken hearts, broken skin.

Long drives of teenage discovery, of mouths, hands, lights dimmed.
Collisions called education, drunken summer nights, near a cool lake, skin to skin.

The arguer refuses the status quo, works on factory floors, learns her bruises are from him.
Dialogues sharpen visions of change. Three women swear to defend one another’s skin.

And still she exists: the college-girl hubris, the shame of stringbean limbs.
All that can never be. Why can’t youth love the smooth deceit of skin?

Mismatched desire in a place I cannot begin or end.
I fall for a man who falls for me. He becomes my country of world-weary skin.

Meet the graduate, love in an upturned bed, a country without kin.
Slough off the old, smile through brutal truths, dress in a pretty wife-skin.

Moments too soon, a firstborn splendour slips into being.
This wide-eyed girl rests holy at my breast, feeds from aureole moon-skin.

Years pass: teaching, reading, painting strange synesthetic dreams.
What is love but trying, staying, fighting for what lives inside children’s skin?

Bruises yellow in waters of need, as into the world, a second swims.
She unfolds maps to places I’ve never been, riverscapes of maternal skin.

Courage grows for them. Husband turns into gone. Back to a country where once I lived.
For two daughters, I learn alone: the touch of one between sheets of untouched skin.

Poverty arrives. Two daughters, three jobs, a land-locked PhD. I learn what addiction is.
For nights I cry on a bathroom floor. Prayer lives in many skins.

Andrea Witzke Slot is a London-based poet and fiction writer, whose work has won prizes with Able Muse and Fiction International and placed in a number of competitions in both the US and UK. Her work can be found in such places as Ambit, American Literary Review, The Southeast Review, and Stand Magazine. After teaching for many years, Andrea now lives in London where she works as a contributing artist with Fiona Lesley’s Poetry Exchange and works to capture humanity and nature in words, paints, piano and photography. Her publications include To find a new beauty (Gold Wake Press 2012) and The Ministry of Flowers (Valley Press 2020). Find her online on her website, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Jordi Alonso holds a BA from Kenyon College, an MFA from Stony Brook University, and a PhD in English from the University of Missouri where he studied nineteenth century British literature, classical reception in the Victorian era, and ancient Greek. He will begin his studies towards an MA in Classical Studies at Columbia University in the fall. His first book, a collection of erotic poems inspired by Sappho, Honeyvoiced, was published by XOXOX Press in November of 2014. His chapbook, The Lovers’ Phrasebook was published in 2017 by Red Flag Press. He is currently writing a third book of poems based on ancient Greek divination practices at Delphi.


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