Ingress to the right: past the sun-struck peonies,
(as gorgeous as roses but ready to dance)

where you collect your trowel and spade, sure
of your strength and skills, that your eyes will teach you,

your ears hear the words you need.
Soon, you have filled your basket with greens

and flowers for friends and neighbors, you speak
as a friend and neighbor, dancing to the music

of the wind. You call this your life
and might have flourished in it,

having prepared the soil and delineated borders
until another flower opened, this one embroidered

in purple thread on the back of a kimono
worn by someone waiting for chemo,

shorn like the rest of us in our suits and jeans.
How soon egress on the left, how long

shade keeps each bud clenched tight.
Having used up all your arguments,

your mind exhausted by its single beat,
your eyes perceive the foreclosing dark,

and your ears, if they catch the sound of voices—
words caught in a mockery of wind

dancing them round and round, whether
scraping the ground or ready to ascend.



Catherine Stearns is the author of The Transparency of Skin (New Rivers Press) and a 2018 chapbook Then & Again from Slate Roof Press. She has received grants and awards from the Iowa Arts Council, The Dana Award, the Loft-McKnight Foundation, and the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Her poems may be found in New Ohio Review, The Yale Review, CALYX, and Poetry Daily, among other places.

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