after the painting Separation by Edvard Munch
over his heart to guard it, and more, to keep it from falling
from his chest. It has seared, burned through his suit.
The trees, the water, the clouds—everything has stopped
but his longing which feeds the earth at his feet. Rising
from the soil, a large crimson flower shaped
as . . . is it a couple embracing? He turns away, is in no shape
to address the blithe woman behind him. Her hand
outstretched, she glides toward the sea, yellow hair rising,
floating—even gravity can’t hold her down. Crestfallen
his mouth forms an empty O. He knows he must stop,
that it’s futile to ask her to stay. Haven’t we all felt unsuited
for the risk of attachment. Our closets filled with suits
of mourning. The loss of father, lovers, friends, shaping,
coloring us dark as the flower’s inky stamen, our unstoppable
grief. Lost in reverie the man indulges, on one hand,
the ache, but also the lingering happiness of having fallen
in love, its taunting afterglow. Dear Munch, you who reprise
the essence of saudade, the beautiful sadness rising,
bittersweet perfume of a dying rose. Brush always in pursuit
of mood—the steely blue of an indifferent sky, nightfall’s
lonely hour—this black shore with dark orbs shaped
into islands of isolation. And the way the man’s hand
is outlined with the red of his leaking heart. She stops
as if to offer a final glance. Or maybe she has stopped
because she’s no longer real—an ethereal spirit rising,
haunting reminder of loss for one unable to handle
yet another. He feels her breeze by, brushing his suit,
feels the weight of the black foliage—black clouds shaped
like footprints leaving—the homesick scent of early fall.
But what if I’ve gotten this wrong, what if he’s fallen
in love with sadness itself? The habit of melancholy he can’t stop
revisiting. Her dress meets the road to form a loose-shaped
heart, one unable to stand on its own. No surprise
it lies on its side—plays dead. Paralyzed, his pursuit
of her withers into a fate that slips out of his hands.
Sorrow has reshaped the hours, the seasons. He rises
to eternal fall—yet still that tug of spring. And so it suits
him, this familiar dystopia, this love he can’t unhand.
You Say the Kitchen is Your Country
after Jane Hirshfield, for my grandmother Sittu
In your kitchen where parsley
was washed, the scent lingers
as earth must hold for a long time
the verdant scent of grass.
In a stainless basin,
the current gathers
clouds of sand, rinse of rain—
Yes, I’m a Michigan girl
of lush peninsula, lake fed,
one who, you say, shares your blood
but not your soil—
Yet, in my kitchen where parsley is washed
the parsley scent lingers
as one who’s borrowed your apron
knows the deep smell of your hands.
sprig and fringe rising,
tabouli salad, iggi omelet,
did I invite you in
with thoughts of fenceless gardens?
As one who straddles the gate
between our green oases—
as hunger migrates on massive wings
as one who circles
between home and home.