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we all burn up from the leaves. | Coral Cooper’s Senior Goodbye

We say goodbye again, flicking memories back and forth over wet asphalt. The rains come every year, maybe not this hard, but we’re always jolted by the wet embrace. The dry winter laced with books, papers, cracked skin, dusty wine, and promises the cold freezes and keeps, thaws.

We remember the flowers that we unearth and become.

The dark spider on a stem spirals and her needles tap at first-light and she gathers in the morning’s first kill as the tightless, broken-heeled, lying lovers do. We don’t turn over from our separate pillows to watch it all spill out. We won’t turn to each other for anything.

Some petals curl into themselves. Some sun burnished the blood into the snow.

Cabbage moths stutter in flight like shaking ash from a flame we pretended not to light.  And the steps quicken so the memory doesn’t catch up. Dandelions dance in cool mornings lifting themselves from the soil while their petals shadowing nothing at all. Roses, glowing red with ideas, fill the space between the yellow roses that make the afternoon sun seem dim.

Cooper 2Pansies knock against the softly stoned curb from a warm wind and we keep our eyes patiently cast down. Stagnation is only tolerable if we have our footing safely kept.

We pass them by and the shadows fall behind. The trees reach out higher for clean light and the fountains trickle a tune we tap vaguely to behind them. We sit under the old maple and think we don’t know anything. Everyone else knows more about MLA, APA, Chicago, anatomy, coding, drinking, sleeping.

Cooper 3But anyone only pretends to know the steps from the beach, to the library, to a bed that’s not really yours, to the wrong classroom on a Monday when geology is on Tuesday, to the open treadmill smeared with sweat, to the closest cup of coffee, and back to the empty beach– no one swallows this cold — for a book or two still chewing on the Bali flavored grinds to keep a bruised chin up.

The rest of our books stacked on an uneven nightstand– Sense of an Ending, contemporary poets, literary criticisms, Hemingway, environmental science, psychology, James Joyce, Shakespeare, Paradise Lost, Things Fall Apart, The Inferno— half read.

The collected works challenge a crystal vase beside it. Peonies burst out in colorful compassion from tall strong stems resting in the glass, and the folds smile back at the softer spots of us we fold into, fold others into, and our thumbs fold page corners into.

Cooper 4Sunflowers fold in the night because they know true warmth and will wait for it. In midday, they remind us the sun is still there. Flesh forgets more easily. 

We walk through. Poppies sigh from inexhaustible wandering and daisies fall dizzy from gazing at the baby’s-breath pressed against the night sky making softer constellations– not forgetting the blazing ones already mapped out for us.

The lilacs calm the assiduous with a caressing scent. Tenderness can be bold; it’s what keeps the the lotuses afloat and hearts devouring. Mindful gratitude is often all that we need to burn through the haze to the following day, class, crisis, or wonder.

Some streets are fields of flowers that die and dry– we let them.

It’ll rain again. Storm currents sway the languid to discomfort and simply moisten the potent. The drains will flood with seawater along the crushed shore pulling petals through the cracks and we’ll laugh scorched.

The world will melt away another way leaving a schism only the uprooted notice. Our steps drop pace and we think of the rift we let others leave in us and we smile at the light rushing in after being so torn open. Here, we find, is where freedom lies.

Without patience we can’t consume the flowers; without kindness we won’t have a flashing chance at bliss. Sweetness comes from the dirt sometimes and the begonias suck up all that was left. We’re only lost in the burning world.

Be seeing you. goodbye, goodbye.

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