Carnation, Milk, Milk, Tea

Tanner Manley

John Singer Sargent: Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose. Oil on Canvas.


I remember her preening the iridescent lemon tree. Gathering handfuls of dark, dewdrop leaves among peach moons orbiting softly in the tangerine twilight.


You remember her less for that, more for stemless glasses whispering, awash with blushing ginger cocktails, rosy verbena lemonades, flaming tangerine sunsets; for evenings spent overlooking opioid summer streets; for fainting all too often onto pillows of smog. The city: a honeycomb of driverless taxis, chaotic intersections of narcotic, bearded peacocks masquerading as sane dog-walkers, sightseers in their neighbor’s yards.


I remember her ceaselessly pruning her boisterous children, her placid houseplants, all seen through the same witch-hazel eyes.


You remember her less for that, more for morphine injections you stabbed into her freckled rose hips. Three sinking mattresses bob in the bay like candles spitting wax on our wooden, familial dining table.


Out of pain, out of reality.


I remember her teary face, a leaky gutter in the stained stairwell above—worn from suicide missions out of the nest back when she hadn’t noticed us fledge, when she thought we’d fallen like wet eggs past blurs of lichen to the ground: pink puddles for her to slurp up onto her motherly tongue. A thread of connection, three floors of thick apartment din and clatter between us, a distanced, distorted, gauzy gaze. Madonna and




I don’t remember her almond icing, her lavender jellyfish pastries, or her plumes of incense: vanilla tendrils fuming from ashy wooden scoops. Was she worshipping?


I do remember her contradictions. How her nose wrinkled at white cigarettes sleeping in the cracked streets; how she bathed in ivory smoke, dipped her scaly fingers in searing soot, and waxed her legs with live coals.


We remember her in the garden, red clay like rouge on her knees, among the paling lilies. You and I stir Chinese lanterns to life like rosy lemonades--with freckled faces and peacock feathers. We are tempted to hush in the breeze, to dye our bodies salmon in the sunset.


TANNER MANLEY is in his senior year as a violinist at Interlochen Arts Academy. He currently lives in Beirut, Lebanon, but attended school in Nairobi, Kenya for two years prior to his coming to Interlochen. He is previously unpublished. He finds inspiration most often while listening to Ravel and Shostakovich.