Today and Other Flowers by Lauren Camp


Today I sat with a woman who thinks without future.
Her house holds first and last things.
In a bowl, globes of grape, pale as elm leaves;
in another, a scatter of nuts that don’t touch.
She eats like a prophet—first one, then the other.
Once she painted the undulant: threshed fields,
the thickening river two miles off.
Her brushes discovered the inside of landscape.
Now her skin’s gone thin and violet, and her eyes hold caves.
She doesn’t know me. What she doesn’t know
isn’t tragic. She’s fallen through,
but her hands want to be moving. She sits
in her crowded house with two German shepherds.
She sits in her braces and blue pants with canes
by her side. Through the many tall windows,
she sees a sky drowning in blue.
Sees pines wrinkled in heat. It is afternoon,
and still is. Afternoon daisies.
From her I learn the koan of looking.
Open-throated Southwest pots—buff,
white and black—cluster in the kitchen.
She asks me a question studded with ending
and beginning; she’s concentrating.
No deviation in the sheen of her thoughts.
She asks and repeats her question with the logic
of what’s not important, with pieces
of asking. She’s lived here for decades.
The days drift through her, and bloom into night.
She asks again where I’m going.
To the unfolding water, I tell her.
Her soft hands play with a purple pencil.
She does not latch her thoughts; she looks out
at the interior wall of the sky, the endless
distance. Together, we notice the birds that fly
to the feeder, their silent conversations
as they work on seed shells. This is why
we have shadow and yellow, why red-winged blackbirds,
why we have windows, why trees knot
at the river, and why the river turns around,
suddenly deciding to run off again
wherever its memory pleases.


LAUREN CAMP is the author of three books, most recently One Hundred Hungers, winner of the Dorset Prize. Her poems have appeared in Poetry International, Beloit Poetry Journal, and as a Poem-a-Day for She is a Black Earth Institute Fellow and a producer/host for Santa Fe Public Radio.