Elegy to a Woman Writer, A Friend by Barbara Rockman


“Elegy to a Woman Writer, A Friend” by Barbara Rockman


Walking, I think about luck, death and spring . . .

Do two black cats crossing in front of a black clad walker cancel bad luck? 

Does the crimson yarrow delete the blue egg’s gluey smear? 

Does one daughter’s peace shadow or highlight her sister’s grief? 


            My friend died this week. My daughter lost her job.


The pelvis, I’m told, is a bookend to shoulder girdle. Between the two, a ladder that twists a route to the heavens. I ask for metaphor in all things. But my body worker is not grounded in imagination. Though her husband’s photos contrast one river through a swell of trees in four seasons. Ice and snow. Blossom and bee hum, white water. Slowed current and winded grasses. Yellow aspens flailing. 


            She suffered long enough and recognized The End, the way a seasoned author

            feels in her gut when to lift the hand from the keys. She invited me into her

            library, offered annotated gifts. Her books sit at the foot of my bed like a quilt. 


Yesterday I counted three tanagers. Fire and flare rocketed across my path. Those blood red heads have to be a sign, don’t they?


The same way the perfect gray mouse floated in the dog’s silver water bowl. Eyes wide, tiny curled paws and the black tail, a rudder of death’s dinghy. I scooped that body with a chrome trowel, mumbled a blessing. And buried it.


This morning when the rabbit stared me down, white lips munching a last crust of weed, I thought, we aren’t so different, you and I: our hunger, wariness, our agile flanks that surprise us with how far they can cover ground, and how necessary our burrowing. Mine into pillow, quilt, book and pen; yours into dirt and dark. We need a place to come home to, don’t we?


            When my friend laughed, there was collision of cynic, seer, witch, and

            mischievous girl, of spirit tender and fierce. All you could do was let her do

            the talking. Sisters of the heart, she said. We knew what happened when one

            sentence bled into the other’s question. 


            Her dogs have wilted with disbelief. Her daughter inherits her bravery. Her

            husband rises at midnight, hauls his guitar to the garage, plays alone.


This early sun is knife sharp. I flinch. It isn’t just that she isn’t in it. It’s that this blinding world’s unbearable. And yet. And yet, wild yellow roses burst my vision. Overnight, they’re everywhere. I think exuberance. I think Dare to be gorgeous.  


And those two dark cats? Maybe an underlining of death’s many names, long black dash and in-between, light. 


In-between laughter and See you later, she stacked her last manuscript, its white pages aligned and ready for the press.




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Barbara Rockman Artist Statement:

Barbara Rockman teaches poetry at Santa Fe Community College and in private workshops in Santa
Fe, New Mexico. She is workshop director for Wingspan Poetry Project offering classes for women who
are victims of domestic violence.
Her poems appear widely in journals and anthologies and have received two Pushcart Prize nominations,
the New Mexico Discovery Award, The MacGuffin Poets Hunt Prize, Southwest Poetry Prize, and the
Baskerville Publisher’s Prize. She is editor of the anthology, “Women Becoming Poems,” and author of
“Sting and Nest,” which received the National Press Women Book Prize and the New Mexico-Arizona
Book Award. She has collaborated with artists on numerous image and word installations and has been
awarded residencies at Atlantic Center for the Arts and Playa Summerlake.

Barbara received her MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts and her M.Ed. from Antioch
University-New England.


Author: A Room of Her Own

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