The Tulip Sacrament: A Tribute


Dear ‘Annah—

I will always think of you,

xxxxxSitting again at the corner
xxxxxtable in the Café Figaro where MacDougal Street meets

xxxxxwindy Bleeker, just exactly where
xxxxxxxxxxwinter gets mitered into spring…

That edge place, where the pigeons coo wait with me, wait with me slowly, and the raw wind blows, and the flowered curtain billows out intimacy, with “all/the invisible gestures behind…” and you at the café window, writing and writing.

Dear ‘Annah, I found these lines by Helene Cixous that I wanted to share with you. She says: Writing is learning to die. It’s learning not to be afraid, to live at the extremity of life, which is what the dead, death, give us. It feels a kind of permission. A strange unasked-for gift. No one wants this, but now, your book trembles a little, filled with your voice, with your wonder and sadness, your questions.

xxxxxxxWait with me for what?

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx—as if the meaning

xxxxxxxof afternoon light in April is now

xxxxxxxrain with evaporation, spring with its wobbly ankles, its

xxxxxxxxxxxxxfireworks—Spring with its ominous-shaped trowel—

Dear ‘Annah, your poems live at that extremity, luminous. Lonely. Full of risk.

xxxxxxI feel scared and small again in the City of
xxxxxyoung cat whimpering in her basket. Where are my

If some of us are still here, still learning how to die, learning to be less afraid, we have your poems, so full of surprise, and beauty, and light. And look how they talk
about you!

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx—even the grayness
xxxxxof the April street beneath the exhaust feels

xxxxxto her like lemon chiffon on top of all the shoulders of all the people passing
xxxxxxxxxxxby her in a direction

xxxxxxxxxxxof yellow-light-sun sound glazed with air

I see you there at the café, writing still. Unafraid.


xxxxxxxmeasurably, my body’s been taking up less and less of the air.

Yes, but… dear ‘Annah, if you were learning to die, even if we didn’t quite know, what we felt, what we still feel, is your courage and your love and the wild joy, of you, gentle, always moving toward beauty. Still.

xxxxxxxxWhen the flame and yellow tulips
xxxxxxxxbegin dying in the air on top
xxxxxxxxof the coffee table, I move across the room to kiss
xxxxxxxxtheir insides. They’re completely
xxxxxxxxopened today bending over
xxxxxxxxtheir own shoulders, the rim
xxxxxxxxof my grandmother’s cut glass vase,
xxxxxxxxand I’m thinking a thing becomes its death—
xxxxxxxxthat beauty goes past
xxxxxxxxitself into its finishing with such force
xxxxxxxxit seems to come from nowhere straining

xxxxxxxxto end.

The Tulip Sacrament Wesleyan University Press 1995