We lean forward to fit into the camera’s lens, all seven
of us squashed together. Our weekly gathering
celebrates returns: of spring, of the snowbirds.
Of my own return from serious illness.
But standing in that spring field with my friends, the scarlet voice
of poppies screamed the sun’s too strong, and as I ran
my fingers gingerly over buttercups, I thought, they are not
as I remember. A nugget of fear lodged in my chest.
Months later as I look at my smiling face in the photo,
I recall how awkward that first get-together was for us all.
No one said anything except how good to have me back,
how good I looked. We were all adjusting to my croaky voice,
loss of hearing, of mobility. While some returned
from vacation, I returned from the dead.
I feel again the aloneness of that first excursion, how I was
a stranger to myself as well as to them; the tears shed
that I’d never be the same. It was true. I look no different
but carry, like Persephone, indelible marks
from the underworld—caution and distance,
less certainty. Less energy.
But as I write this poem, I thank the Grammas:
Their cards that fill a book. The patchwork quilt
made for my homecoming from the ICU, each square,
an individual hand imprinted within. A wall hanging
in my bedroom now, I look to those hands,
wake to them yet, each morning.
From Gathering the Harvest (Bellowing Ark Press, 2012).
This poem first appeared in Passager.
Used here with the author’s permission.