Gilding the Lily

For Lilly 


A retired man squats and notes 

The anatomy of one lily

Its ovary tucked between green folds

Specks of pollen sprinkled on shooting stems

Self-reproducing; functional beauty 

He snaps the stem swiftly

It’s a phenomenon that belongs in his living room 


A schoolgirl stands at another lily’s length

Petals glisten and sway like a pinwheel

She rubs its velvety petal between her thumb and forefinger 

Her fingernail slices its subtle skin

Then like a lunch bell

The brakes of her school bus call her away


The shrubs grow envious of the lilies

And litter them with insults and rude names 

One lily decides to change:

It pierces gold loops through its stem

And weaves ink images up its petals.

Soon all the other lilies follow suit. 


The gardener is called to investigate 

And what he sees makes his eyeballs go cross 

He suspects it’s an invasive species

Tearing and tugging 

He tosses the roots into a smokestack.


Later, everyone asks,

“Will the lilies ever grow back?”



That Year 


Glossy faces, each have a name.

I flipped through smiles,

Wondering who would reach fame.


Autographs and candids of candids.

Insecure tears and neon braces.

Homecoming and spirit week 

Shattered by town headlines: 

Teen Dead.  


Golden waves spilled 

Over crisp gurney sheets.

The next day, obituaries and tattoos. 


For Secret Santa that year,

I received a dingy white

Michael Kors purse

From the dead girl’s brother.

She had planned to be a nurse.


Her purse was mine,

But I sold it to the Silas Deane Pawn 

Next to Spirits and Wine.

Rigors of a Broken Heart 

i searched around, but no one was you

i found bits and pieces, clumps of cells

future fingers and toes so red they turned black


a film reel plays behind my eyes

like on tv its gray sac moves across the screen

the reel gets stuck on the sunrise


hung above my grandma’s stained toilet bowl

at seventeen she got married 

at seventeen i flushed her first grandchild down the toilet 


do fetuses have souls? i must admit i do not care

i had something, a part of you

that would’ve kept you a part of me


and i killed us


My Body is Racetrack

Napkins dabbing grease off pizza,

plastic wrappers like birds in the sky.
Geneva’s three race series, 

it was a beautiful night in late July

when I almost died. 


Blur of go-karts zipping around,

hicks at the speedbowl yelled 65 down.

Razor pinched between two fingers

slashing up and down.


The sting of metal still lingers

when I drive through my hometown.


My home was twenty-three hundred square feet

of new decorations each season

and Toll House cookies that slid off baking sheets.


The Flint-stone vitamins couldn’t cure

the sense that my death would be premature.


Crouched in a coffin,

I heard my name for the last time:

a running faucet of shame. 


They were off to the races; I was busy

cutting and tracing.


Haunted by the stain near the shower drain,

they downgraded me to a hundred square feet. 

Never admitting

our family was incomplete.


My parents left me 

cocooned in white sheets

and spun a story 

about a new job and their favorite son.



Biographical Note: Lillian Wonderly is an undergraduate student studying creative writing at the University of Hartford. She is an editor for the University’s Literary Journal, Aerie, and for the Hartford Informer. In addition to writing poetry, she also seeks to promote the writing of others in the community.