When You Asked Me To Tell You What Doesn’t Make Me Sad
Deployment Day 145
Redbuds. Garlic scapes.
Toothwort belled up in May.
What your face feels like
in my hand. Hot water
on a dry rash. Our cat
made into the bed. How lemon
counters bitter. Kimchi talking
in its month-old jar. The slam
of a friend’s car door.
How she doesn’t knock
when she comes in. The whiskey
slick of dry Manhattans. That song
I know the words to—how we shout it
wildly in a half-dark kitchen.
A promise of eggs, grits
lousy with butter. The gangly sound
of maples in wind. What I think
you will feel like the next time
I hold you, when I clutch
you or fall sobbing to your chest,
when we drive home
and you notice all the yellow
you missed, the brashy slur
of spring, all the trees
gone back to who they are.
This winter there is nothing new to find,
the oak stump having finally rotted free
of its oyster flush. The rest of what’s felled
blue with turkey tail. Even the caves will not
warm the forest to chickweed. Still the wild
rocket loosens its bustle and watercress
hues the pond green. Each bulb of field
garlic finds me like an unexpected
kindness, a phone call on a cold day, a bouquet
of sage and rosemary at the door. I am ready
for the yellow of new spring, the forsythia
flash of March, the way it comes undone
with redbud, each sloppy pink magnolia. Soon,
every dish will be dusted in flower,
but today, in the breathy chill, all I can find
is log after log of funeral bells.
Erin Elizabeth Smith is the Executive Director for Sundress Publications and the Sundress Academy for the Arts. She is the author of three full-length collections of poetry, most recently DOWN (SFASU 2020), and her work has appeared in Guernica, Ecotone, Crab Orchard, and Mid-American, among others. Smith is a Distinguished Lecturer in the English Department at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and the Poet Laureate of Oak Ridge, TN.