Flowers and Wine
You brought me flowers and wine
for my twentieth birthday,
flowers and wine
when I was still just flowers to you.
I became wine:
neither sweet nor bitter but full
of the heady memory of sweetness
the possibility of both.
I have seen how we, the haunted, the traumatized,
sometimes fill our glasses too fast to the brim,
clink them together too hard, making wine overflow,
searching in that complicated taste for sweetness,
searching in one another,
accustomed to the sweet accompanied by the bitter.
Sometimes I gulp down what I should sip,
as all of life rocks back and forth between seeming
like a fading memory,
and something terrifying, yet intoxicating.
I don’t know how one lives with the sobriety
of life that doesn’t attack
or why any kindness makes
my mouth fill,
as it fills all of a sudden
with blood when I bite my tongue,
fill with the bitterness I have choked down in my life.
I was always careful when you reached out your hands
not to hold them tightly in mine
but to only let my fingers rest
limply in them, like the stems
of freshly-cut flowers
due to the headiness of wine.
There was a time illness
mixed up myself and my emotions
like the initial, seemingly senseless
strokes of paint that make up the groundwork of a painting.
And I was there as the work was being painted.
There I am still:
every stroke was another way
possible to feel.
Begun with a study in charcoal, overlaid
with strokes of watercolor
in every shade, and shade above shade,
as happens in increasing fear,
through years when I appeared
to be to others
a familiar landscape grown tired--
sky without stars.
Though various kinds of pain
were painting images in my brain,
which every throb replicated
while others ran like rain.
Until the artist began to wind
the messes and the maze and all
the misplaced stars into a circle,
only to change her mind:
to swirl the paint and leave a canvas
bright amid weakness, a face the same
color and shade as the landscape behind,
sharing it’s texture with ground and air…
Perhaps there is a magic
in the vision
that still runs deeper
than anything yet put on paper.
About the Author: Maia Evrona's poems, as well as excerpts from her memoir on chronic illness, have appeared in Prairie Schooner, New South and elsewhere. Her translations of the Yiddish-language poet Abraham Sutzkever were awarded a 2016 Translation Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and have appeared in Poetry Magazine. She has written on the importance of the NEA in Artnet. Her website is here.