She is, there—amongst the Mango Trees—a Flytrap Garden

Here’s a flash prosetry piece of mine which appeared in Verse Kraken in 2014! The formatting in this inspired me to do “stone”, my twine poem.

“She is, there—amongst the Mango Trees—a Flytrap Garden”
by Penny Stirling

For the summer holidays she goes north to her girlfriend's family's mango farm
of         parental introductions and appraisal—oh, scriptwriting? many jobs?
           red dust, sweat, spiders, mosquitoes and flies, wondering if she'll make it 'til New Year's.

bit overwhelmed but okay!

Her skin is city-weak and lotion-pale until it
gets       burned forgetting to reapply sunscreen
           bitten after not securing flyscreens
           unbearable feeling clothes, sheets or girlfriend against it by the third night, and her in-laws laugh and
give       soothing creams
           reminders long past when she needs them, and say, city girls, hey, but
they       don't mock her scars or the pills she takes
           acknowledge her hard work, and even if she's a city girl so too are most of the backpackers. But though her peeling skin heals, there are
still      insects
especially mosquitoes
always     flies.

how are you? asks her girlfriend daily because in their relationship
one        cares enough to ask genuinely
           cares enough to reply truthfully
okay! tired, hey.

She only guesses why on the sixth night she draws Venus flytraps on her arms—perhaps the German's snowdrops-and-tulips tattoo inspired—but when she wakes she
finds      shut traps
           no new bites. She never knows why she draws more on her shoulders and neck—ah, hmm—but when outside the flies bother her less. She never understands why the ink
flytraps   remain after showering and scrubbing
           grow in size and number
           propagate down her arms and chest, even without flowering and seeding—as if that'd be better. They
can        not be hidden in the evening, when sleeve lengths rise like the moon
           be ignored—ah, just bored, hey.

okay I think

By the tenth day
she        removes the flyscreens before she sleeps
           stands on ant nests, because if the flytraps don't eat enough
they       nip her fingers
           gnaw at bed sheets
           scratch her girlfriend when the two get close under ceiling-fan comfort, and
she        tries drawing over them but the infestation does not abate
           presses the pen harder—oh, no, no—before throwing it away, and then on the thirteenth day a chin-dominating trap snatches her Lexapro.

i am not okay i am not okay i am not okay

Her girlfriend
is         amazed
           confused
           sensible
           guessing when she researches and says Venus flytraps will die
from       low humidity with high temperature—can't afford flights to Alice
           fertiliser—ah, hmm
           waterlogging, and drives down to the dam—no crocs, promise—and it only takes one submerged day for all flytraps to wither to pimples. The parents
are        concerned
           presuming
           delicate when they ask if she needs a nurse and
she        holds tight her girlfriend
           says, I'm okay now, hey
           gets back to picking mangoes, but still
always     there are
the        flies.


Originally published in Verse Kraken #2, April 2014.

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