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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