Brandi George won the 2015 Zone 3 Poetry Award for her poem "Lily and Gog." Poems from her first book Gog (Black Lawrence Press, 2015) appeared in Gulf Coast, Prairie Schooner, Ninth Letter, Columbia Poetry Review, and The Iowa Review. She has been awarded residencies at Hambidge Center for the Arts and the Hill House Institute for Sustainable Living, Art & Natural Design, and she attended the Sewanee Writer’s Conference as a Tennessee Williams Scholar. She is currently working on a multimodal, book-length poem titled Anti-Faun.
LILY AND GOG
(Autobiography with nymph)
The Sacred Pool
The field where I was raped was once
a sacred pool. Crows ate holy raspberries,
which Lily planted and cared for,
a river nymph with long blue hair.
I could speak to the earth after Chris
dragged me through a field. I screamed
Golden Goddess of the Corn! and became the stalks’
rustling, leaves, gravel, swallows, pheasants.
I transformed myself at the slightest suffering.
Lily cried into the pool for her stolen daughter,
Gog, slashed her breasts and wrists, sang
lavender spikes through the water.
In her grief, she welded her body
to the bedrock like a petrified trout.
Gog would turn into a monster,
the biblical harbinger of the apocalypse,
but we didn’t know that yet. The dirt
scrambled my voice into a harpsichord’s
arpeggios. Lily woke from a thousand
years of sleep, then quicksilver-ed
into my body. It rained
as I sifted home. For days,
I stared at the basketball hoop. Cages
and nets have little matter, mostly space.
Heathen in Fishnets
Birds liked to watch us, me and Lily, blast
constellation-hymns at trees, refusing
to mow the lawn or wash dishes.
Lily mummified herself with the coils
of my Disney tapes, tied my dolls
to jump ropes and smashed their faces.
If I were Snow White, barn swallows
would hang laundry on the line, suds beef
off floral plates. Lily moved like paint rinsed
from a brush, smearing the soybeans’ edges.
Band practice was a joke as she pulled
the silver of my flute into ropes, wrapping
percussionists in metallic halos. Mr. Krauss
could not conduct without her blowing
in his ear. The lunchroom was a chaos.
I watched from the courtyard, a Goth,
heathen in fishnets, head adorned
with sticky black diamonds. Inside my chest,
pythons writhed and languished
at the sight of Jeff, same name as my father.
His thin, white skin glowed in the spaces
between tattoos. His Manson shirt
read: No Forgiveness. No Mercy. I wondered,
had Jeff read Nietzsche’s Antichrist?
Was his Hyperborean tongue
as blue as a corpse’s? Would he bind
my heart in pine or plastic?
We liked to go camping,
me, Liisa, and Lily. In the field
behind my farmhouse, we learned
imagination is a kind of death, a wilderness
of the collective’s manic fits. There is one story,
and it opens like a music box.
The ballerina’s legs are worn of ligaments.
She turns with a screech. We saw a UFO,
and after, form and shadow didn’t match.
We lined our doll’s eyes with ink,
cut off the crowns of their heads,
then watched their faces change.
We both saw them: the dark-winged creatures
we had no name for, spinning
like planets as we played.
Cora the Exorcist
Cora burned my Antichrists, the Manson album
and the text, along with my poems and journals.
They thought I was possessed, and I was.
Sometimes Cain winged around my bed
while Lily’s lightning flickered like a bug zapper.
Sometimes Cora gripped
my shoulders and shouted, “In the name of Jesus!”
And I wished Jesus possessed so many colors,
although I loved to kiss his pale stone lips
above the altar while my grandmother,
church secretary, wrote the newsletter.
Christ understood to suffer
is an explosion of pink, Alice falling
down the tree. And beauty, luminous,
is the thing that feeds her wandering.
Lily wanted to burn him on a pyre.
Lily wanted to lie in a hammock.
Lily wanted to honor him with fire.
Cora checked me for demons
on Saturdays at the St. Johns Big Boy.
While I waited tables, I learned
to push Lily into the sky. February exorcism:
Cora knocked at our door. I had just
coated my legs with cucumber lotion. She was armed
with a Bible, holy water, ash
and extra virgin olive oil. I put my biology
notes away. I dressed like a sacrifice—
curled hair and pink fingernails.
Our dog barked and ran in circles.
Cora held me still, and I could smell
the Aqua Net in her towering bangs.
She gripped my shoulders. My father stood behind
in case I tried to run. My mother and uncle
stood at my flanks. They were terrified,
and my laughing slashed time’s fabric.
I saw men in funny hats, deer
shot with arrows. She cast out
the characters from my stories—
Jacob, Vivian, Cain, Shalloch!
I couldn’t stop laughing, saw the aurora
borealis, the dream where I was flying,
and I begged the gods to turn me into a nebula
where stars are born. And I breathed
like a flame, deep inside a supernova,
exploded into dust, Saturn’s rings.
Cora said, There is one
demon left! And she wrapped Jesus’ name
all around. One left! Lily, asleep in the garden.
Lily heard Gog singing in the night’s arrow.
Gog sang like a lowing cow, lost daughter,
in love with her plate of sorrow.
Gog! Gog! And she didn’t answer. So Lily
chased her: down Pearl Street,
past the Ovid Bar, East Street Cemetery,
under the creek, across doe’s tongues
through racks of bucks, above
the Walmart Superstore, past abandoned
Main Street, Lansing’s grey
capital, Sparty’s underwear,
then deep into the undertow of Lake
Superior, north to Canada, Hudson
Bay, the snow of the Arctic,
by the fur of seals, weaving
through the goddess, Tiamat’s, squid-ink hair
and sinking, finally, in a bed of shipwrecks,
at the center of a glacier.
Gog whispered to her billions of irises.
She was gifted with an eyeball for each
extinct species. From each eye
sprang a phantom. Each phantom cradled
one million years of history—
pterodactyls, slugs, and wooly mammoths roiled
in bright spheres. A brontosaurus’
roar made Lily jump. She was wind
halting, suddenly, in a forest.
Dearest Gog, she began, my lost daughter,
my raspberry, first bud, sun-behind-
my-thumb—you’re the red of the blackbird’s
wing, the pink of crabapples. Rising,
Gog replied: The world calls me
Medea, Lilith, Demon of the Deep.
I taste “mother” in my mouth, a blowfish
barbed and swollen. Love, after fighting
a thousand wars, killing countless infants
as they dreamt of shell-wombs, bundled
in their mothers’ arms? My children laugh
at suffering, outside of time, immortal.
What are you to me now, lowly pond-
nymph? I could crush you in an instant.
You, of tears and green, dare descend
to monochrome eternity? With this,
Gog trapped Lily in an orb
of blue, prismatic, swirling ice.
Lily the Stag
Bailing hay, in Michigan, a chill spread
like roots. I took off my flannel shirt
and swung from the hay loft, walked
past tractor engines, the ladies lace
I liked to pick and twirl, the picnic table
where my grandma sat pitting cherries,
hopped in my Grand Am and drove
to Pearl Street in an iron trance. My mother,
newly divorced, would not be home
until morning. The mums rose
to meet the sun, the leaves upturned
their palms. I prayed: Dearest Lord, rainbow-
Get me out of this town.
I fell asleep, and in my dream,
Lily spoke as a stag, showed me
the trees’ buzzing
breath, beyond visible light.
Leaves were glazed with silver; beams of red,
orange, blue, green, and white
flooded skyward. Our souls comet-ed
through a fifth dimension, teeming
with images from our past incarnations.
Lily’s antlers were electricity,
her coat speckled with stars. I knelt
and touched my nose to her muzzle,
and her song pierced my being:
Corn-daughter, fight, warrior flight, as primordial
darkness was one with the light, so shall you wear
the weavers’ web of cobalt.
She sank the glowing blue armor
into my skin, and like a black rose,
I bloomed into the night. Lily’s next words
filled the whole forest: Corn-daughter, wake!
Then I woke to hear my own mother spill
her purse onto the floor, three in the morning, home
from the bar. She tucked the sheets
around my shoulders, kissed my head.
I wrote a lullaby, tried to remember it
as I drifted, saw a figure fly, Gog’s litter
approached, and I began to hum.
I woke to see my mother sitting
beside me; she held my hand. I woke
alone in a field of infants, umbilical
cords attached like squash vines. I woke
inside a flaming oak and felt my lips
harden into bark. Gog and her children wailed
a dissonant fugue, hissed
my name. I saw the intricate whorls
of their throats, the way they tenderly grazed
their bodies against one another. Gog hurled
Lily, now an icy prism, into my eyes.
Fragments protruded from my face—
an antler, Lily’s Tree of Life
a broken crystal toy. The weaver’s
web-armor began to throb and I felt
the stirring of my spinnerets, more
eyes bloomed from my cheeks. I cracked
the tree and rose, First Woman, silk
gland, ovary, book lung, neck,
shoulder, thorax, leg and egg sack.
I swallowed the prism, and with each bite
the orchestral passion of Lily’s song burst
from my hybrid body. And Gog’s children
began to dance! Gog cackled,
untying her robe. She let it drop, and radiant
spiders spiraled through her as she transformed herself—
an archangel, Hera, Kurt Cobain, Jesus, a crone, a stag.
As she picked a blue spider from her horns,
I flung my body from the flames, singing
Lily’s music, then “Jesus Don’t Want Me
for a Sunbeam,” “All Apologies”