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Afternoons, in what he calculates must be spring,
he leans against the little table and draws from memory:
irises, heavy and purple.  In the ship's model library,
species after species bloom on screen.  He chooses
instead to remember, to push against the page
the way petals push back after a bee's launch.
From this angle, the frill of the beard.  From this,
some irregularity of color, as imprecise as

 

the signal they are chasing is exact.   Sometimes,
he allows himself to look back at a photograph,
his mother, her face half-obscured by a bloom, her face
half-obscured by the expression he knows
as her observation.  This is what calls them out:
not a mother's voice calling out for him to see the spring's
first purple emerging from a tall green stalk,
but some regularity, half-obscured by what is watching.

 

They have all sought the meaning of the signal.
While he draws, he wonders whether those calling out
will pluck a couple of his shipmates and press them,
petals drying between the pages of an old novel.
Or if they will draw the specimens, time and again,
adding after the life has gone some frills where there were none,
or some greater intensity of color—

 

                                               Or, if, like the iris,
they will have bloomed for a time, to be caught
in light before the next season consumes them:
the regular pulse of the remaining signal
becoming a picture of a running child, a blur behind
the sharpness of the irises, waiting.


T.D.Walker’s poems and stories have appeared in Strange Horizons, Web Conjunctions, The Cascadia Subduction Zone, Luna Station Quarterly, and elsewhere. 
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5 Apr 2021

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