Photograph by Kelly Dumar

Idris Anderson

Blue Bear

It must be abstract but with colors,
green for the magnolia, yellow for the finches
in the white cage. Blue is the bear I stitched for you
from velour and buttons and leaned on the fence of your bed.

Already I’ve drifted into narrative
and particulars, the name of the bear I will tell you,
and the story of the stitching, the colors of zinnias tall
in your window. There are no screens between you and me

and the zinnias. I could touch them
from the chair where I sit by your bed
reading, opening the space in which you are dying,
all the world should come in, petals like paper arrows—

purple-red, pink, gold, sharp-raw
as the rasp of your breathing. Don’t die,
I’m thinking. Live so I can carry you back
to the beach, your house where I slept on the porch,

the sea pounding,
shells rattling in laps of waves,
so many in the turned-up hem of your shirt
pulled close to your heart, your small breasts

brooding metastasis.
Dying is what you wanted,
no measures, let alone extreme,
anything but this lingering drug-induced limbo.

There is no peace in your body,
your head back stiff as if in mid-convulsion.
The arm I stroke is rigid, the hand gnarled-tight.
No way to know where your mind is, if you feel anything.

Last week when you asked my help
to count pills, I panicked. Small bottles
on the table by your bed have been within reach,
your daughter tells me.  I know you told her to tell me.                    

I will live all my life with your last look
and words of great care. Your sorrow that you asked
too much. My inappropriate exuberance for what might be.
My failure. All those last days you did not reach for the bottles.

Pain. I can’t stop thinking of pain.
I look at blue bear and think of the book
we read, the film we watched in different cities.
I think of the name you gave him, Aloysius. We laughed.

Idris Anderson                            

Idris Anderson’s collection of poems Doubtful Harbor (Ohio UP)was selected by Sherod Santos for the Hollis Summers Prize. Her first collection of poems Mrs. Ramsay’s Knee (Utah State UP) was selected by Harold Bloom for the May Swenson Poetry Award. She has won a Pushcart, a Pushcart Special Mention Prize, and the Yeats Society of New York’s Poetry Prize. She has published poems in AGNI, Crab Orchard Review, Hudson ReviewMichigan Quarterly Review, Ontario Review, Prairie Schooner, Paris Review, Plume, Scoundrel Time, Southern Review, and other journals. She was born and grew up in Charleston, SC. More than two decades ago, she won a year-long Teacher-Scholar grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to study Greek and Greek tragedy at Stanford University. She has lived in the San Francisco Bay Area ever since.