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About this poet

Poet, essayist, novelist, and playwright, Tess Gallagher was born on July 21, 1943 in Port Angeles, Washington. She received a BA and MA from the University of Washington, where she studied creative writing with Theodore Roethke, and a MFA from the University of Iowa.

Her first collection of poems, Instructions to the Double, won the 1976 Elliston Book Award for "best book of poetry published by a small press". In 1984, she published the collection Willingly, which consists of poems written to and about her third husband, author Raymond Carver, who died in 1988. Other collections include Dear Ghosts (Graywolf Press, 2006); My Black Horse: New and Selected Poems (1995); Owl-Spirit Dwelling (1994) and Moon Crossing Bridge (1992).

About Gallagher's work, the poet Hayden Carruth wrote, "Gallagher's poems, beyond their delicacy of language, have a delicacy of perception, and the capacity to see oneself objectively as another person doing the things one really does, with clear affection and natural concern."

Her honors include a fellowship from the Guggenheim Foundation, two National Endowment of the Arts Awards, and the Maxine Cushing Gray Foundation Award.

She has taught at St. Lawrence University, Kirkland College, the University of Montana in Missoula, the University of Arizona in Tucson, Syracuse University, and Willamette University, Bucknell University, and Whitman College.

Red Poppy

Tess Gallagher, 1943
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.

"Red Poppy" by Tess Gallagher copyright 1992 by Tess Gallagher. Reprinted from Moon Crossing Bridge with the permission of Graywolf Press, Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Caution: Users are warned that this work is protected under copyright laws of the United Sates, and that downloading is strictly forbidden. For information concerning rights via any medium, contact Graywolf Press, 2402 University Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55114, (612) 641-0077, www.graywolfpress.org.

Tess Gallagher

Tess Gallagher

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