I want you to be mown but rampant grass.
Light and its residing memory. Pigment and the skin of leaves
of grass. I think of you carrying heavy books
to the Cape Cod National Seashore –
always novels (four or five), biographies, anthologies,
one year even a history of the corpse.
That may have been the year we stopped in Amherst
to see where Dickinson lived, her garden in July, replete
with butterflies and bees, hydrangea, milkweed, oxeye daisies,
the climbing bleeding heart. You were stiff,
bradykinetic. Now you are chill — not stupor,
not fully. Not yet the letting go.
If you listened to this, your eyes would shine,
and then you would forget. You’d move on to forget
it’s evening, morning, the same exhausted scarves of sky
confusing your view, the same stuttered phonemes
failing to say what it was you wanted
a moment ago in the bedroom, or was it the cellar?—
that was where Grandma said it was,
though Grandma’s long dead. As we will be too,
you said, and the white hydrangeas look like old
women on a bus, reading and nodding off.
She says her stuttering inside comes out crooked.
Her sentences assume a simple gait,
belying the rhythm of who she was
before she was who she is now,
which is written in her fingers and wrists,
the ropes of her arms and legs,
and there’s a pulse that’s hard to detect
inside the shaking that can’t be missed.
There’s a mind inside this brain,
and there’s a life inside this death.
Please try hard (as she does) to remember.
What was your name again?
And your second name?
I told you over the phone and you said, Yes,
I just can’t picture your face –
You had gone somewhere other than Pittsburgh.
It was still the same city, but greater: infinite,
with vacancies like spaces between galaxies.
I had no sensation of falling off the round, turning world.
No: I’d been plucked from the universe. No longer
a kind of star.
Deirdre O’Connor is the author of two books of poems, most recently The Cupped Field, which received the 2018 Able Muse Book Award. Her work has appeared in Poetry, Cave Wall, Fourth River, On the Seawall, and other journals. She directs the Writing Center at Bucknell University, where she also served for many years as Associate Director of the Bucknell Seminar for Undergraduate Poets. She can be found online at deirdre-oconnor.com.