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Fish Arrival by Leslie Tribolet


In Bloom

Zhaleh Sarduy

I watched you there
looking small in your old-fashionedness
your busy hands
fiddling with the oversized buttons
of your garish wool sweater.
Its embroidered leaves
dancing ring around the rosie
like a spoiled child
vying for the attention
of the adults in the room.
A brown itchy-looking thing
bought uptown but somehow
looking thrift store now.

The crooked lapels
of your crimson blouse
curled out
from the top of your sweater
and crept up your throat
like angry ivy
swallowing you whole
the blood-red collar
now an open mouth
screaming to silence
the whispers in the room.

Your "hospital clothes"
as you called them
maybe you chose them
for their boldness
a kind of armor
known only to you
But your green thumb has betrayed you
and turned sore.
The cold white walls
Sit stone-faced
With your gardenerīs wardrobe.

His precision steel instruments
glinted in the fluorescent lighting
awaiting their moment of usefulness.
I thought of your own tools
back at home
the hoes, rakes, shovels and spades
covered in the rust and soil
of a fulfilled life
extensions of you
too busy to shine.

I watched you there
your farmerīs market smile fooling no one
listening, but not really
only weeding through the thick underbrush
of tangled medical jargon
picking and pruning for the truth
your head nodding in mock understanding
obediently accepting the verdict
for replay later
when the words would grow legs
and run through your mind
looking for a way out
but only finding each other again.

I wanted to reach over
and shield your hands
from the creeping cold
but history kept me still.

I watched in horror
as the doctor asked you to choose
cupping the two options in his hands
I knew which one you would select
before you breathed a word
not the one I would have chosen
it was obscene
I wanted to scream
I wanted to grab you and run
Far away from this conversation
this nightmare
this reality

But instead I watched you there
sitting quietly
on your best behavior
as if being graded
and then
I began
to SEE.

Your red blouse softened
the scalloped folds of its collar
caressed your face
like the petals of a flower
protecting their mother stamen
and the promise of her life-giving pollen.
The dancing autumn leaves
of your cardigan
celebrated you
toasting the life that breathed in you
a life that could never be stilled
by words you couldnīt pronounce
a life that gives life
Our own Mother Stamen
who sows the earth
to share the glory within
I basked in the glow
of your beauty and strength
warmed by the fire of your courage
and so I watched you there
and you were in bloom.

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