That linkage of warnings sent a tremor through June as if to prepare October in the hardest apples. One week in late July we held hands through the bars of his hospital bed. Our sleep made a canopy over us and it seemed I heard its durable roaring in the companion sleep of what must have been our Bedouin god, and now when the poppy lets go I know it is to lay bare his thickly seeded black coach at the pinnacle of dying. My shaggy ponies heard the shallow snapping of silk but grazed on down the hillside, their prayer flags tearing at the void-what we stared into, its cool flux of blue and white. How just shaking at flies they sprinkled the air with the soft unconscious praise of bells braided into their manes. My life simplified to "for him" and his thinned like an injection wearing off so the real gave way to the more-than-real, each moment's carmine abundance, furl of reddest petals lifted from the stalk and no hint of the black hussar's hat at the center. By then his breathing stopped so gradually I had to brush lips to know an ending. Tasting then that plush of scarlet which is the last of warmth, kissless kiss he would have given. Mine to extend a lover's right past its radius, to give and also most needfully, my gallant hussar, to bend and take.
Copyright © 1992 by Tess Gallagher. Reprinted from Moon Crossing Bridge with the permission of Graywolf Press, Saint Paul, Minnesota.
Poet, essayist, novelist, and playwright Tess Gallagher has written numerous books, including Willingly, which consists of poems written to and about her husband, author Raymond Carver.
Date Published: 1992-01-01
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/red-poppy