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Prairie Schooner 79.4 (2005) 126-130
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Vincent and Crows, and: I Unload the Dishwasher, and: Carnation
Ann D. Garbett
Vincent and CrowsHe didn't care about crows,
he cared about wheat –
the sweat and bread it stood for,
how it rippled under the French sun
like muscles in a peasant's back,
the waves as yellow as his little house. [End Page 126]
Alone in the field by the muddy track,
he smelled drying grain and linseed oil
and felt safe for the first time in weeks.
Under the denim sky, his head cleared
and he thought of a painting
all blue above, yellow below,
the paint laid on as thick as cheese
on slices from a village loaf.
But still the thievish crows came on,
twenty or more, their rusty cries
flapping up from the rustling field.
Their wings shadowed the wheat –
no driving them off.
So in the end he had to paint them in –
yellow field, blue sky,
a flock of black crows rising
toward the spinning sun.
I Unload the DishwasherThis dragon cup is for Mondays
which I dislike as much as anyone –
their fangs and stench, the chaotic swirl
of their stinging tails.
Any cup satisfies Tuesday,
pale blue and white stripes,
But on Wednesdays I usually contrive
to have my coffee from a bird cup
in hopes of soaring [End Page 127]
through the rest of the week,
or singing through it at least.
I'm happy with simple symbolism.
Thursday is whichever flowers
or stripes didn't come to hand
two days before. Who cares?
Fridays, though, I favor the blue carp
who smiles as he sinks
into the week's murky depth.
Saturday is the gaudy souvenir of Hastings –
English history and a pleasure pier
mapped around a cup
meant for lingering
(or planning to linger at least –
why do these things go so wrong?)
over a book, or dawdling with the dog
in the garden while the coffee cools.
Sunday is the lotus, rising
out of the mud in its ancient way
to blossom like the soul.
That's the idea.
It doesn't always work out.
Today I drank from the butterfly I found
hidden behind the cereal bowls.
It's the first of September
and the whole world
awaits the cocoon. [End Page 128]
CarnationMy brother told me once
how when he was on the subway,
or maybe just making a sandwich,
a vision might knock him back
into the wet dark jungle
where he'd see
a small woman carrying
a bleeding child in her arms.
Once he called out to her,
the child's blood red as silk
on his office floor.
How those sights elbow
into our ordinary time.
At the hotel restaurant,
all mirrors and glass,
red carnations on every table,
he looked up from coffee
to see them –
a young woman in a business suit
bent over a crossword.
An old man like our father,
swollen feet in white elastic stockings.
A vacationing family, two young daughters
in pink tees with kittens.
All of them dead
in the breakfast bar,
eyes sealed, mouths sewn shut.
Lately I've been watching
the amaryllis in my kitchen,
how it presses up its thick pale stem [End Page 129]
and swollen bud from the knobby bulb,
then bursts – no warning at all –
with a flower as big as a plate,
its silky red blossom
springing out of a grave.