“Still Life” by Anne Pitkin

Anne Pitkin


for Emily

You made a photo of his favorite cap,
dark blue, “Jamie” on the bill in white.
Set carefully on the porch rail, emptier
than anything I’ve ever seen, it argues with
the hydrangea blooms just opened, their airiest blue.

I don’t want him frozen
in one minute, you said. I want something larger.

When your friend was dying,
we talked of the Mystery, how close you felt
to the other side, how alive he was
as he moved toward the border.

You read physics to learn about matter,
Jung to learn what we don’t know beyond matter.

I thought finally his death would free you
from the travail of his care, the pain of watching him
evicted, loss by loss, from his life:
the long walks, then the thrift store shopping,
the car, the work.

Can’t I get in my wheelchair?
he said near the end, too weak to leave his bed.
Can’t I get up? Then he was gone.

What can I have been thinking!

Your face plunged in his favorite blanket,
you rocked and sobbed. I heard you keening
in the shower where you used to sing.

He danced, you told me, seated, in the car.
You can’t visualize or imitate it.
You can’t bring it back. He loved doughnuts.
Spoiled cheese? he said once,
when his sister spoke of inner peace.

The cap is posed at a jaunty angle.
The sun-dapple-leaf-flight-into-sky around it
says Alive! Spring is here!

And it was,
the day you spun him around the lake in his wheelchair,
the last day he went out.

There’s no filling the emptiness
you tumble through, unable to find the ground,
so alone no one can reach you. Let her go,
I tell myself. She can only follow him so far.

You’ve propped it by your bed,
Still Life with Cap. How skillfully
you’ve filled the frame—no white space,
but vivid greens and blues, a lattice of shadow,
the cap drawing it all together.

from Rattle #27, Summer 2007


Anne Pitkin: “I cannot say just when or why I started writing poetry. I read a lot of it during and after college, and I responded, I guess, by trying to write it, initially piqued by the tensions between words. My first submission, to The Saturday Review, was an exuberantly awful attempt. For weeks, I awaited a phone call from John Ciardi. In the years since then, I’ve done a bit better.”

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