M N Kotzin: Two Poems
Awakening to Zinnias | Sea Changes
Awakening to Zinnias
Awakening, I see only scarlet
breaking open my sleep
carefully, like separating an egg,
detaching yolk from white.
Each petal becomes clear,
flowering until my world is one
great flat world of petals, a flower-
head with a dark red eye, star circled.
I see only scarlet, then sleep breaks, opens
just beyond scarlet to magenta, cerise, to
kiln-fired pot: orange, sienna, white, to
leaves, paired, lanceolate; the pot
marked by heat, darkened.
Now I see nothing but scarlet,
orange, yellow, cream, magenta, cerise
petals in circle after bright circle
quickening. All I see, waking,
roused from my sleep on the
sofa is color, then petals, zinnias,
the kiln-flred pot, all these
undulating. The thick stems, sinuous;
veined undersides of petals.
Waking, slowly, I find myself
x-ing out everything inessential.
Yes, I say to scarlet, magenta, orange, to
zinnias, until the whole loose
arrangement becomes clear, and then,
across the room, you.
I stand on shore to watch you race
across the open water, across light-
filled space. I watch as you grow small, until
your distant sail at last begins to turn
on the horizon, moving back. In time
I see you wave. I want to hold my breath.
Your boat begins to slow as though no breath
of wind is stirring, yet the white clouds race
across the sky. I'm marking time:
I pace along the dock; I wait. The light
is solid here in summer. And I turn
to watch you tack your way to shore until
I feel myself begin to rise, until
my feet no longer touch the dock. My breath
comes quicker as I rise. I watch you turn
to see me float above your mast. You race
to catch the wind before I'm gone. I'm light
at noon, I'm air. You catch the wind in time
to follow me. I ride the current out of time.
You fill your sail. I soar, then slow until
we move together, until all's sunlight,
until we're nothing but one long deep breath,
a shuddering in tandem: our hearts race
one against the other. And then we turn
to go on back to land where we will turn
back to ourselves. Or so I think. This time
we stay on water, we dissolve. We race
together: sea and air, a mist, until
we're disembodied, each other's breath
our own. We have become our own sweet light
all honeyed. Love, my love...I call you light-
ly now, "my love," as easily we turn
to one another. Finally, a breath-
less laugh. And we are back once more in time;
in time, again I call you "love" until
I find you gone. The tattered white clouds race
away. You who were light to me, in time
have turned to nothing bright. I'll wait until
your breath inspires me: one last long blind race.
Since 1969, M N Kotzin has been teaching creative writing and literature at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, where she is the advisor to Maya, the student literary magazine. She is the author of A History of Drexel University. Her poetry and short fiction have appeared in Iron Horse, The Southern Humanities Review, The Mid-American Review, Boulevard, Confrontation and ELF: Ecclectic Literary Review, and in online journals such as The Drexel On-line Journal and forthcoming in The Vocabula Review and ForPoetry.com.