For Allen Ginsberg
Sunflowers beside the railroad tracks,
sunflowers giving back the beauty God gave you
to one lonely traveler
who spies you from a train window
as she passes on her way to another train station.
She wonders if she were like you
rooted to your bit of earth
would she be happy,
would she be satisfied
to have the world glide past and not regret it?
For a moment, she thinks so,
then decides that, no, she never could
and turns back to her book of poetry,
remembering how hard it was to get here
and that flowers have their places as people do
and she cannot simply exchange hers for another,
even though she wants it.
That's how it is.
Her mother told her.
Now she believes her,
although she wishes she didn't.
At fifty-three, she feels the need
to rebel against the inevitable winding down.
She already feels it in her bones,
feels artery deterioration, and imagines
cancerous indications on medical charts
she hopes will never be part of her life,
as she turns back to the window
to catch the last glimpse of the sunflowers
that sent her thoughts on a journey
from which she knows she will never return,
only go on and on
and then just go.
From Dread, W.W. Norton (2003)
NO SURRENDER. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, forthcoming 2010.
DREAD. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2003.
VICE. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1999.
GREED. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1993.
FATE. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1991.
SIN. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1986.
KILLING FLOOR. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1979.
CRUELTY. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1973.
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