Raw Honey


on the hills of the antelope valley poppy reserve in california,

the blooms of the state flower billow like small red dresses.


like orange streaks of citrus. the poppies are thin-hipped, silky

and hammered with fire. my sister tears them from the ground


like weeds. she hides her heroin in the car we share.

like some kind of milky and boiled down


monster. it’s not the same. i know. but the opium poppy looks

just as much like blood. when the poppies die in california, the valley


looks like a great, wide grave. like the same slash and burn a world away.

when the opium poppies’ petals fall apart like lanterns of flame, the bulb


is cut with a knife. pressed into a brick. strained through burlap and the dead

stems of a flower that once was decoration. that once knew nothing


but to bloom.





my father peels blistered skin off a young girl

who dropped the tea kettle; he reveals the new,

tender pink underneath.


I burn my hand on a curling iron and

he says bite your lip. father: boy-nurse

learning the pattern of burn.


elevator shaft brother, lightning guard,

latex glove titan, head stripped bald,

winter jacket of gauze. he rips my teeth


from my mouth when I leave them swinging.

a teenager wears a black robe soaked

in gasoline. a walking bonfire.


father takes skin from his thighs,

the backs of his knees, and repaints his face.

this is not truth, but survival.


artist of ash. he washes

my burnt hand, a lit tulip, under cool water—

his hands, broad, but soft, remember the heat.                     


Sara Ryan received her MFA at Northern Michigan University, where she was an associate poetry editor for Passages North. Her work has been published in or is forthcoming from The Rumpus, Booth, Sonora Review, Yemassee, Prairie Schooner, ]and others. Her chapbook, Never Leave the Foot of an Animal Unskinned, is forthcoming from Porkbelly Press. Next fall, she will be attending Texas Tech University to pursue her PhD.