I saw a tiger swallowtail yesterday, black
band around the ruffled edges, yellow wings
with short black stripes, resting on a purple lilac,
sipping nectar; I wanted to take a snapshot,
but my batteries were low.
My batteries were low indeed, which is why
I'm here, in Virginia, far away
from my regular life, with its complications
and errands, its never-enough-time.
Time is elastic here, "when nine short days
are longer than months," the sky, cloudless,
the air sweet with honeysuckle, phlox.
And yet time's rubber band snaps back,
as the morning flits by on golden wings,
and evening's lilac curtain seems to fall
shortly after lunch.
Lunch is the highlight of each day;
we sit in the sun with our workmen's pails,
tortilla wraps, peanut butter cookies,
read aloud to each other, peel oranges;
their citrusy oil perfumes my fingers.
Years ago, these fingers wrote a poem about
the orange in my lunch box; it was really
about missing you. Which, of course, I am,
today, and why I wanted to catch
that butterfly on the flowering branch,
but, having failed with the camera, have turned
to these words, which also fall short;
still, I am transcribing this sweet morning, love,
and I am bringing it home to you.
(The line in quotes is by Macdara Woods, and used by VCCA on one of their t-shirts.)
Mid-October, and the sky is a heartless, relentless blue.
Every day, the sycamores turn a little more golden,
as if the sky is a celestial toaster turned up high,
and we are all waiting for it to ding. I am waiting
for you to come back, to send me a sign. Are you
the goldfinch at the thistle feeder, shrugged into
an olive drab cardigan? Or the monarch
hinging and unhinging her stained-glass wings
as she lights on the chrysanthemums one more time
before she leaves for Mexico? Are there birds
where you are? Do you miss the sun?
You have been gone three months now,
a quarter of a year. It feels like three minutes;
it feels like forever. You have missed
this fall, this blaze of glory. Yesterday, I made
that chicken dish you loved, the one with olives
and garlic bobbing like small boats
in the wine-dark sea. I fried up polenta,
sliced it in golden circles. The woven picnic
basket where I'd put your foil-covered plate
is empty. So is my heart.
—Barbara Crooker, Fogelsville, PA