ORIENTAL POPPIES

Georgia O’Keeffe, 1928
for my mother


Lit matches struck in the dark, road-flares
burning, these poppies smolder by the bird bath
where we brought my mother’s ashes
when her life wicked out. Each flower
is splotched with black, night at the heart
of burning day. Light shines through the petals,
translucent as skin. At the end, her bones shone through,
the skeleton wanting to dance. The poppies’ orange tango,
a wild fandango with the wind. Nothing in English rhymes
with this color, not porridge, not ordinary, not original.
We only have one mother. Reach for a blossom,
twirl it in your fingers, a dancer on an unlit stage.
Every gardener knows about loss: thinning, pruning,
the appetite of rabbits, how frost waits in the wings,
sharpening his shears.

~Barbara Crooker
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