Author's Note: I love the paradox of forms being freeing; that we do not use boundaries as limitations, but as explorations of what is possible. We can stay within the boundaries, but we can also bend them, go outside of them, see where they might overlap with other forms, and ultimately, use them to initiate or embody change.
No one warned how delicate you’d arrive,
how slow the oxygen would pull into lungs,
how your purple breath would loiter, then
splotch into complexion. Born then borne to
the clear, plastic cases warmed by sanguinity,
you settled into the machinery of saving: needle,
florescent bulb, bleach, monitor, protocol.
How many paintings have been made of hospitals,
or the doctor who plucks the baby like a dandelion,
hurries away from wind that will surely scatter her,
or the room where the newly alive try to breathe?
Better to capture the uncut field, the innocuous
picnic in the middle of summer, the ruddy mother
who opens a basket, the yellow flowers rooted
by paint. The kind of place where children laugh
like a creek, and there is never a chance of drowning—
Mine is an ordinary life for sure—
most would concur.
Small sorrows, only ones that I can bear,
no rare disease, no sharp grief to endure
or not endure, no stifling lack of air
or freedom, no untethered need to drink,
no leaden breath,
no suicidal thoughts when by the sink
washing the dishes, no feet on the brink
of slipping to an early, soapy death.
Just small annoyances: knees that stay sore,
a twinging wrist,
remembering that I’ve read this book before
when half-way through, the never ending chore
of crossing things out on my growing list
of things to do, small holes in well-worn clothes,
(I cannot sew)
a fierce desire to swim against the flow,
two willful kids, a husband that I chose—
all ordinary things, and yet I know
disaster sits, a winged thing waiting to
whir suddenly. I hear its patient sigh
in every ordinary moment. You
know, so do I—
that ordinary ends; all good things do.
Skins thick and shaggy yield to slough away
under the carving. Blade amasses juice,
glossed with phosphorescence until a sluice
of water washes knife, aims to allay
beet’s grip. Fingers know the pigments stay
for hours. My hand stands one in its noose
of flesh. The pieces fall with want to loose
themselves from whole, swirled insides on display.
My grandmother pared beets to make a borscht,
the kitchen redolent of earth and sun;
she’d clean their bodies, snap them into parts,
leaf from root, then cut with quiet force.
The counter, evidenced with what she’d done—
scarlet bleeding, bright as thin, sliced hearts.
All three poems are from At the Table of the Unknown, Moon Tide Press, 2019
©2020 Alexandra Umlas
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