Waking from comalike sleep, I saw the poppies, with their limp necks and unregimented beauty. Pause, I thought, say something true: It was night, I wanted to kiss your lips, which remained supple, but all the water in them had been replaced with embalming compound. So I was angry. I loved the poppies, with their wide-open faces, how they carried themselves, beckoning to me instead of pushing away. The way in and the way out are the same, essentially: emotions disrupting thought, proximity to God, the pain of separation. I loved the poppies, with their effortless existence, like grief and fate, but tempered and formalized. Your hair was black and curly; I combed it.
Reprinted from Blackbird and Wolf © 2007 by Henri Cole, by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Learn more about FSG poets at fsgpoetry.com.