This selection, chosen by guest editor Amber Alexander, is from The Girl Who Talked to Paintings by Shannon K. Winston, released by Glass Lyre Press in 2021.
John Singer Sargent, Polly Barnard, Study for “Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose”
After the ceremony our father whisked us away, dropped us off in a parking lot on the side of the highway before returning to the reception. We waited (seconds? minutes? hours?) for our mother to pick us up. Heat lightning ripped through the sky as semis whirred past us, stirring up plastic bags and cigarette butts at our feet. Standing perfectly still, we resembled old dolls stowed away, brushed seamlessly into my father’s past. Our best thrift store dresses clung to our stomachs. Sweat curved into crescent moons under our arms, where threads frayed. How we had stepped down the aisle just hours before with white lilies. We had scattered them slowly, feeling each petal slip through our fingertips, as if we were offering up a small part of ourselves. Years later, in the Tate Museum, I gazed at Sargent’s Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose and suddenly recalled that night. How I wished I had leaned over and whispered to my sister: Close your eyes, you be Lily, I’ll be Rose. If only we’d had our own makeshift lanterns into which we could have thrown bottle caps, gum wrappers, and glass. We would have watched it all smolder. We would have transformed the parking lot into our own garden where cut flowers find new roots and girls like us are given a second chance.
Shannon K. Winston’s book, The Girl Who Talked to Paintings (Glass Lyre Press), was published in 2021. Her individual poems have appeared in Bracken, Cider Press Review, On the Seawall, RHINO Poetry, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA from the Warren Wilson Program for Writers and lives in Bloomington, IN.
Amber Alexander, who publishes creative work as e. holloway, is a poet based in Ohio. They currently work in higher education and as an Assistant Editor for Best Of The Net within Sundress Publications. Alexander is a former Editorial Intern for Sundress Publications, former Editorial Board Member for Cornfield Review, and was a Sundress Academy for The Arts Writing Resident in 2023. Their work has been published by Cornfield Review and earned multiple awards during undergrad at The Ohio State University.