Truth Is An Orange Canary From Lisbon

Truth Is An Orange Canary From Lisbon

Reading my mother’s decades-old letters
fluttering blue aerogrammes
written edge to paper edge, no margins
I want to find some truth, some reason
for abandonment but all I find is the mention
of an orange canary she bought while
her ship docked in Lisbon.
Truth is an orange canary, then,
a ship, a steamer trunkful of paintings,
silver jewelry she cast in the lost wax method,
a journey through the Panama Canal,
…..why don’t you write to me?
…..nobody understands me
…..sometimes I want to die

Truth is one year away then
many years gone. An orange canary
in a wicker cage. A song never heard.
Her trips to Barcelona, Malta, Rome,
Eleusis where my mother sang
oracles while all the cameras stopped
working and the ancient stones wept.
Truth is a pale winter, the cold bells of Venice,
acqua alta, Salvador Dali’s mustache,
…..I have no money, could you send?
…..nobody understands me I am an artist
…..I must be free no one appreciates
canvas, turpentine, oils
brushes, palette, cadmium orange.

Truth is, there is none,
unless I count the hills of Lisbon
ascending to cobalt sky
or descending to a sea blistered
with light, a woman walking
through the open market one afternoon
sees an orange canary, his song
thrilling her heart as she forgets
everything she regrets until the canary
I never saw, rests in the palm of time.
Truth is not a feather on the scales of justice
but the orange wing of fire, dusk,

Garibaldi, exile, trumpet flowers flung
from the hot forge of forgiveness.

About Regina O'Melveny

Regina O’Melveny is a poet, novelist, and artist whose work has appeared in The Bellingham Review, Barrow Street, and The Sun.  Her prizewinning chapbook, other gods, was published by the Munster International Poetry Center. Her novel, The Book of Madness and Cures, was listed as one of NPR’s six best historical novels of 2012.

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