Nathan Slinker

The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival

We wandered into the rows
humming feedback and wrapped in the pale red
wash of watermelon snow turning deeper
the further in we went.

A woman mixing powdered fertilizer
into the irrigation holds up her arms
to stop us. One hand vibrant, indigo—
a pair of flower shears show off their jaws
where her other hand should be. We are becoming

more tulip now—red amplified across skin,
dark stamens in our petal-shade of genitalia.

The woman returns to water.
In the adjacent fields, hundreds of boys
rise from mothers’ arms, canaries taking flight.

Summertime on the Family Farm

I sugared and fed. I poppy bled.

Father laid one hand
in the irrigation pond—
studied me with the other.

Mostly, they pulled sweet things
from my body: someone snaps
a pea, the strawberries swell.
And truly, parts of me
longed for their mouths.

sing to me, thunderboy,
hit me hard with light.

Ripen up, baby doll, get ripe
in the summer rain.

Summer rain, summer rain
make me wet again. I conceived
each rhythmic sun
in my skin, and each night
I grew:

hung lupine spikes in my chest,
slipped fingers into damp
red earth.

I lay down where they said to,
and when beauty hurt me
I hurt it in return, growing into roots
for my own autumn teeth.

Author Portrait

Nathan Slinker’s poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Ninth Letter, The Greensboro Review, Hinchas de Poesia, and The Kenyon Review. He was chosen by Orion editor Jennifer Sahn as a 2013 Fishtrap Fellow and also received the 2013 Thomas Morton Memorial Prize in Literary Excellence for Best Poem from The Puritan magazine. Nathan lives in Tempe, Arizona and is an MFA candidate at Arizona State University.