Mama Amazonica


Picture my mother as a baby, afloat

on a waterlily leaf,

a nametag round her wrist –

Victoria amazonica.

There are rapids ahead

the doctors call ‘mania’.

For now, all is quiet –

she’s on a deep sleep cure,

a sloth clings to the cecropia tree,

a jaguar sniffs the bank.

My mother on her green raft,

its web of ribs, its underside of spines.

I’ll sing her a lullaby,

tell her how her quilted crib

has been known to support

a carefully balanced adult.

My newborn mama

washed clean by the drugs,

a caiman basking beside her.


All around her the other patients snore

while her eyes open their mandorlas.

Now my mother is turning

into the flower,

she’s heating up. By nightfall

her bud opens its petals

to release

the heady scent of pineapple.

How the jungle storeys stir

in the breeze from the window behind her.

She hears the first roar

of the howler monkey,

then the harpy eagle’s swoop,

the crash through galleries of leaves,

the sudden snatch

then the silence in the troop.



phenobarbital –

they’ve tried them all

those witch doctors, and still

she leaps up in her green nightie

and fumbles to make tea,

slopping the cup over her bed

like the queen of rain.

See her change from nightclub singer

to giant bloom

in the glow of the nightlight –

a mezzo-soprano

under the red moon.

She’s drawing the night-flying scarabs

into the crucible of her mind.

Over and over they land

and burrow into her lace.

By dawn she closes her petals.


All the next day the beetles stay inside her,

the males mount the females,

their claws hooked round forewings.

There is pollen to feed on –

no need to leave their pension.

Night after night, my mother

replays this – how the white

lily of her youth

let that scarab of a man

scuttle into her floral chamber

before she could cry no.

She flushes a deep carmine,

too dirty to get up.

And her face releases them –

the petals of her cheeks spring open.

Black beetles crawl out, up the ward walls.

from Mama Amazonica (Bloodaxe, 2017), copyright © Pascale Petit 2017, used by permission of the author and the publisher

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