The sun throws down its red light, draping
the asphalt. I know your show, I say, how
you love the swish of the curtain’s close.
How, only hours pass before you creep back
to us, pale and small, a white kernel of maize
into our homes, never asking entry.
And we take you, like skin that inches back
across a scar, because we have to.
I wear my own scar like a necklace, pearled
with puckered skin, glistening under you,
but today I refuse your tantrums, your reds
seeping down the vermillion roofs on the blue
horizon, down into the tired maples.
And to the maples: I know you too,
how you grow suddenly cold, and cast down
your flushing leaves, their papery cells
overgrown, pocked with disease.
And to the leaves: I watch you
spill yourselves onto the soil and bleed,
deliberately, under my feet, but today I refuse
to pity you. This is not the end. I am
twenty-five in a month, and you’ll be back
by March, stems green.
So, perhaps, will the disease
climb out of its silver root to trickle back
to you, unceasing. But you know nothing—
only to grow. And how could this scar’s
leathery crescent of tissue, strung again
with stitches, be blamed for its insistence
in turning up, a dumb smirk stuck to my neck,
or me, ever the idiot, grinning at a sunset?

 


The voice in “Third Surgery” manages to be firmly insistent and heartbreakingly vulnerable. The poet sets the body’s trauma and its resilience against the workings of the natural world, the familiar and the unknowable—a beautifully balanced achievement.
—Claudia Emerson, 2011 Ruth Stone Poetry Prize Judge