Love

In the morning, when I walk outside,
She is waist-deep in tomato vines
Collecting the first batch in a glass bowl;
Cucumbers hang below yellow flowers,
Purple chili shine from a flat bush
Under green bell peppers.

He takes me by the hand to the garage
Where he now has a fridge, a sink, and a grill
In the place where he used to keep tools.
Three of the walls are still large altars
With pictures of us children, each one a wall
And a vase of flowers, an icon, or a cross.

He opens a bottle of whisky he had been keeping
For a day just like this, when I might be visiting,
And never mind it’s only half past ten, he fills the glasses
With a smile wider than the sunflowers outside the door:
“Oh, come and drink with me, my child,” he says.
Around his aorta, the tumor coils.

Inside his heart there is the cleanest blood,
The pure happiness of being old, at peace
With all that life has offered.
She, five fractured ribs, walks slowly
With the morning’s harvest and we light the grill.
She won’t drink but will hold a glass

To toast the year’s reward: their daughter home.
I walk around the garden with them, taking pictures
Of the willow they had planted the year I married,
Which now shades the entrance, the calla lilies,
Queens of the night and honeysuckle bushes,
Purple pansies and pink mouth-of-the-lion blooms.

And I pray that every full stop I put in these lines
Is in the right place, every comma after the right time
That passes between walking from one flower to another,
While the glasses empty slowly and we are grateful
That we still can have that one drink, together,
Standing in the sunshine, with the song of birds.

Carmen Bugan

Carmen Bugan

Carmen Bugan, a George Orwell Prize Fellow, is the author of four poetry collections, a memoir, and a critical study. Her new and selected poems, Lilies from America, is a Poetry Book Society Special Commendation. Burying the Typewriter: Childhood Under the Eye of the Secret Police was a BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week, won the Bread Loaf Conference Bakeless Prize for Nonfiction, and was a finalist in the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. Her critical study is Seamus Heaney and East European Poetry in Translation: Poetics of Exile, and her book of essays, Poetry and the Language of Oppression, is forthcoming from Oxford University Press.She has a doctorate in English literature from Balliol College, Oxford University, UK. Bugan, who was the 2018 Helen DeRoy Professor in Honors at the University of Michigan, lectures at universities, international book fairs and conferences, and has been a guest on current affairs and history programs on the BBC, ABC, NPR, The Foreign Desk (Monocle, London).
Carmen Bugan

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Author: Carmen Bugan

Carmen Bugan, a George Orwell Prize Fellow, is the author of four poetry collections, a memoir, and a critical study. Her new and selected poems, Lilies from America, is a Poetry Book Society Special Commendation. Burying the Typewriter: Childhood Under the Eye of the Secret Police was a BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week, won the Bread Loaf Conference Bakeless Prize for Nonfiction, and was a finalist in the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. Her critical study is Seamus Heaney and East European Poetry in Translation: Poetics of Exile, and her book of essays, Poetry and the Language of Oppression, is forthcoming from Oxford University Press. She has a doctorate in English literature from Balliol College, Oxford University, UK. Bugan, who was the 2018 Helen DeRoy Professor in Honors at the University of Michigan, lectures at universities, international book fairs and conferences, and has been a guest on current affairs and history programs on the BBC, ABC, NPR, The Foreign Desk (Monocle, London).