Three Poems

Jonathan Shipley

Photo Credit: Erik Jackson/Flickr (CC-by-nc-nd)

Photo Credit: Erik Jackson/Flickr (CC-by-nc-nd)

Those Flowers

You wandered the art museum aglow.
Under certain light you are happy.
O’Keeffe always painted herself
in those flowers. The curve of a
woman has quiet beautiful color.
You wonder aloud what it must
be like in New Mexico this time of year.
The mountains must have snow.
How many shades of white are there?
What emptiness can fit on a canvas?
A wall. A lifetime. You sat on a particular
bench staring at a particular painting.
People shuffled by— me, too.
I wanted to leave you be.
I wanted to leave you to yourself.
Expressionless, you sat for quite awhile,
as long as O’Keeffe finished
a cup of tea gazing out her morning
window to a horizon only she could see.
I came back for you, held
your hand, and wandered out
into a life painted white.


A Burst Cord

I think my body will fail me.
I know it will. Not soon.
Maybe soon.
How many bones are in these hands?
How would I describe the color of my blood?
I worry about my heart.
My daughter can’t take care of it.
She’s young. It’s hers, but
other bodies can’t perpetuate your own.
My skin creases at the weight of
thought. Lungs fill with the unknown.
Not soon. Maybe soon the
answers will slip into my body—
a growth on my liver, a burst
cord in my neck— and as
my body drains itself of
whatever alchemy it possesses,
my daughter will lay my body
into the ground. It’ll wash into the
earth, seeking the nourishment
the living never knows of.
The color of lilacs over a grave’s stone.



I failed you.
I know this now.
I stand on this beach
and no matter
how loud the waves
crash I can
still hear you.
No matter how
far I walk out into
it, I can still hear you.
No matter how
much I go out
into the dark swells,
I know that I failed
you. But the ocean.
It never fails.

pencil Jonathan Shipley is a freelance writer living in Seattle with his daughter. His writing has appeared in various publications like the Los Angeles Times, Fine Books Magazine, and Meatpaper. Email: jonshipleysemail[at]