by Susan Terris
Feeling well-defended, I tender him the poem
about our father, the one about the night he
stood on a chair. Then my brother, showing
unexpected emotion, bends to my words, calls
his wife, "Here, look." I— pleased to have
moved him—dish up curry while they confer.
At last, my brother, exhilarated, says, "Listen,
we need to know. This type-face. What is it?
Perfect, don't you think, for annual reports?"
As he speaks, saffron films my eyes. Saffron,
vegetable gold, most precious of spices,
culled from purpled crocus sativus picked as
it opens and pollen-harvested by hand.
One hundred thousand flowers yield but
a pound of seasoning. So what is precious?
A spice, the image of a dead father who once
greeted three hundred people standing on a chair?
I've never shown work to my brother, never
before tried to disarm him. Now, wary,
eyeing him from afar, I stand alone in a field of
crocus sativus. "Palatino," I tell him. Then, soon,
I change all my words from Palatino to Times.
Susan Terris's recent books of poetry include Curved Space, Eye of the Holocaust, and Angels of Bataan. She has also published Susan Terris: Greatest Hits and Nell's Quilt, among others. Her work has been published in journals such as The Antioch Review, The Midwest Quarterly, Ploughshares, The Missouri Review, Nimrod, Southern California Anthology, and The Southern Poetry Review. To read more of her poetry, visit her Web site.
Ed. note: this poem first appeared in our spring 2001 issue.