For Judy, Whose Husband is Undergoing Surgery
Nothing much is going on in this painting: high summer,
rolling clouds, deep blue sky. The tall poplars
fill the left hand side of the canvas; the Seine
slithers, a silvery S, barely visible through the leaves.
Someone is standing in the field, knee deep in poppies.
It could be you, before the diagnosis, when your life
seemed to spread out like a meadow of wildflowers.
The detail here is lost in the brush strokes, dots and dashes
of red and yellow, green and blue, small exclamations
of color, the sky pressing down from above. Now
you are trying to decipher the doctor’s calligraphy,
the impenetrable code of sonogram and MRI, the odds
of choosing this treatment or that. The poppies flare
like matches struck in the dark, or something that should not
be there, on the monitor screen. If you were to bend
and pick them, they would wilt in your hand, the hot
orange petals falling to the ground. All you can do is raise
your face to the light, which shimmers, elusive, changes
but stays the same, a zen riddle. It’s the only thing
you can hold onto, and it runs like water through your hands.
This poem was first published in Barbara Crooker's book, More, C&R Press, 2010.
Barbara Crooker is the author of eight books of poetry; Les Fauves is the most recent. Her work has appeared in many anthologies, including The Bedford Introduction to Literature, Commonwealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania, The Poetry of Presence and Nasty Women: An Unapologetic Anthology of Subversive Verse. www.barbaracrooker.com
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