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Today the tomatoes will blush
outside my door --
skin the color of young jade

glazed orange in
the last firing of summer's kiln.
But I sleep through

the afternoon, left eye a bruised
ache of sinus,
asthmatic wheeze of floorboards over

my head. Sirens
sing the tornado home to me --
clicking my toes

until the cyclone's eye blinks open
in surprise. See
the late-blooming iris on my nighstand

open her mouth,
invite me to swim down her cool
green length of throat?


Wind blows its fat-cheeked trumpet riff,
skittering leaves
up against my door at night while

the cat curls into
my armpit -- wrapped nose to tail, neat
as a croissant,

and my chilled fingers greedily
skim the yeasty
rise of his side, buttery glaze

of yellow fur.
Tomorrow I'll pluck wilted buds
from the ivy

geranium and feel remorse
for parched branches
straining toward the windowpane

and rain, beyond,
that quiets maple leaves, matted
against asphalt

like shreds of red and orange silk
and when I walk
to the store for a newspaper,

I'll keep saying
to myself the word wisteria,
as my feet pull

scraps of color from the pavement's
skin, revealing
leaf prints etched in black mold, like

the pattern of
a kimono found burned into
a woman after

Hiroshima, and it is almost
too beautiful,
too horrible for me to bear.


This mute coccooning is something
less than grief but
more than blue -- leaves me wondering

where sweetness goes
once tomatoes fall from their vines
and start their rot,

slithering out of the yellow skins
that litter my yard
like burst party balloons. Why does

rain's monologue
override my tongue even though
its language is strange?

But maybe silence is song, so
I keep it furled
tight around me like the ornate

of a peony bud, and wait
for spring to come --

for the delicate fingers of ants
to burrow in
and pry each of my petals loose.

Copyright 1999 by Lee Ann Roripaugh. From Beyond Heart Mountain, Viking Penguin, 1999.