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—————–after a painting by John Henry Twachtman

Like a gate to Paradise,
illumined as how
fluttering angels might appear,
the meadow seems misty
while at the same time
impossibly bright.

But there looks to be
hardly any way into
such purity of color,
through the many layers
of lavender and yellow.
And yet a few days
before my father passed,
he shouted for my sister
to come quickly to his bedside.

“Haven’t we found
a new way of living?”
he asked her.
When she gathered herself
and after being asked again,
not knowing what he meant,
she merely said, “No.”

Though he insisted,
“Yes, I think we’ve found
a new way of living!”
and went on to tell her
about an abundance
of wondrous flowers
he was seeing.

Some years later,
when another sister
brought it up,
I asked if she thought
it had something to do
with all the strong medicine
he’d been taking.
She thought not, rather that
he was catching
glimpses of heaven.

Wouldn’t that
be something though,
if there weren’t
the glittering cities
and twenty-four karat streets
thrumming with harp concertos—
no souls tipping diadems
or flouncing in long robes,
just the eternity
of a second-chance earth
flushed with asters
and clusters of goldenrod?

Wouldn’t we then
become like the flowers too,
our former sufferings
blown from us as no more
than light pollen
into morning air?

For this no doubt,
we would want to let go,
braced by the faith of flowers
among those last, cold moments
before being whisked into a valley
of lemon lilies, or perhaps
blessed with the surety
of wild rose and camellias

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The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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