Trying to Find Pictures of Roses Online, I Discover a Trend

It could be a spread
from a fashion magazine
or the police photo
of a serial killer’s latest victim:

girl laid out
on the hardwood.
Torn petals,
scattered just so,
decorate her collarbones
and litter the floor
around her fanned out hair
and perfectly positioned palm.

A red Gerber daisy blooms
in her mouth like a gag,
like the detail
the police hold back
from the public.

And so I Google it
 – flower in mouth –
and find models
stalking a runway
with orchids tumbling
from between their lips,
with hair that looks
like it hasn’t been brushed
in days. Hollows
beneath too-prominent cheekbones.
Flat eyes.
They look like the ones
that escaped
a cabin in the woods,
a shallow grave.

I click on a GIF
like a two second clip
from a ransom video.
It’s haunting, really,
the way she raises her chin
just a fraction
as if she’s trying to talk
around the tea rose
stuffed in her mouth:

There’s one of a girl
ten or twelve years old,
her fine blond hair
parted in the middle,
eyes closed as if in sleep.
In her mouth
an evening primrose,
sepals bright green
against her pale skin –
she could be laid out
for her funeral.

Another picture,
another oversized blossom,
this one more cock than gag –
see the model’s mussed hair
and closed eyes,
the suggestion
of a thrown-back head
and how in this one
her plump upper lip
is allowed to show
above the bruised petals.

I move the pictures
around the screen
like tesserae
and take a screen shot.
Daisy, gag, rose, cock
in all those blooming mouths.



The Housewife Reads About Harry Houdini

The best escapes occur
in plain sight. Houdini’s brother
knew that; he stripped the curtain

from Harry’s straightjacket routine
so that the audience could watch him struggle.
Theodore said it was more impressive,

but really it’s just human nature
to root for failure. Don’t we all
want to see something dramatic,

the first signs of panic,
Houdini collapsing after barely managing
to dig himself out of the grave?

Don’t we all long for the illusion
to shatter, and then feel cheated
when we discover it’s simply a matter

of controlled breathing and dislocated
shoulders, of flexing the muscles
before the chains are applied?

Years mastering knots in an empty room.
I can hold my breath a bit longer each day
but I’m still afraid of drowning.

Look inside my mouth, you’ll see
there’s nothing there.
It’s been years since I swallowed the key.



Jennifer Saunders is a US citizen currently living in German-speaking Switzerland. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Found Poetry Review, Pittsburgh Poetry Review, Spillway, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA from Pacific University and is currently at work on her first book.