Tina Barry


We hurried across 53rd Street, my hand in Mother’s, both of us dressed fancy
for a day in the city. Sun cast a building’s dark diamond on the pavement,

and I thought, That’s art, too. And glamorous, although I didn’t know
the word, couldn’t have told you why.

Inside, a swoosh of wool skirts, men’s sports jackets, one dull gray.
Eyes closed I saw (see, still) the underbelly of a dove.

A vast room at the Museum of Modern Art, on each tall wall,
as if seeded and birthed there: water lilies.

You’d say it was the flowers, crushed from Monet’s days, their offering
of furled hearts, that moved me.

More than awe. But in my navy coat and ugly galoshes,
mouth wonder-dumb, that’s the word you would have used.

When a stroke scrambles your brain, when my mother loses words, when a ghoul
levels a country, I consider the soul. Wonder what feeds it, what gobbles it away.

I ask for a whiff of mineral pond water, the ting of a lightly tapped triangle, some sign–
any sign–to learn the lilies live inside me.