“Safranal” & Other Poems by Lora Berg


We happened on a nest
of Crocus Sativus,
petal, stigma, style,
strands of saffron
lolling over lilac rims,
and slid our hands
close to the earth
to pluck them,
three per bloom.


* Jeweled rice of Persia
* Paella in Andalucia
* Amish golden broth

* Under the counter,
in the old Tunis souk
* High up, in Mama’s
kitchen cabinet
* Curled in Grandpa’s
crystal pill box

* bittersweet notes
reaching back in time
* to Minoa, a fresco of
blue monkeys picking croci
from an alabaster bowl
* and farther still,
to the Assyrian Botanical
of Ashurbanipal—

Costlier than gold, once
garnered from the blossom,
how those stigmata glow.



Petals into potions,
balsam into balm.

                                                     The perfumed drift of slant rhymes
                                                     as we stroll through a floral poem.

           Here petals, distilled, exude
           the fragrances of words

                                    in accord, as we sense those heart notes,
                                    the middle ones that cling to skin.

Come evening, with some slow reading
while we steep Oolong, steam in a sauna

                                                          of essential oils, dim the bedside lamp —
                                                          we’ll roll our R’s for pleasure, purr

                        as we sound words out, even while one slips
                        into the other, not forever but in a moment

             of elision and shifting, letter for letter.
             And toward dawn, as we dissolve

                                                                      into pensiveness, the gleaming sheets
                                                                      we sprawl beneath will fold into roses.



Maybe I’m not drawn to pain
but calamities interest me,
their leakage: shrapnel

in the walls of Ana’s house
in Zagreb, bullet holes still
in the piano; pockmarks of

strafing in Pula on the coast;
boys showing off their scars;
how the deer disappeared—

sirens that call out, named for
amalgams of women and swans
who croon to lyres and lure us

unto death; naphthalene’s scent;
why Josip kept his uniform pressed
in the attic like a wedding dress.


—About the Author—

Lora Berg writes with a light touch from her home in Maryland. She is the author of The Mermaid Wakes (Macmillan Caribbean) in collaboration with Grenadian visual artist Canute Caliste. Lora’s poems can be found in Shenandoah, Colorado Review, etc. Lora lived and served for many years as the U.S. cultural attaché at embassies abroad. She holds an MFA from Johns Hopkins, and worked as poet-in-residence at the Saint Albans School. She participated in the 2022-23 cohort of the Poetry Collective with Lighthouse Writers’ Workshop. She is a proud mom and grandma in a vibrant multicultural family.