Window of Poppies, Dec 94


You walk to the abandoned farmhouse
knee deep in the stalks
of last summer’s flowers.
It’s early spring
and the deep red petals of oriental poppies
are blooming around your ankles—
a color that endures
even after the haystack burns.
This morning, there was a total
eclipse of the sun,
but now the light is coming back.

Above the rattled wood of the porch
and long grey boards decaying into embers
from too much summer rain,
a high cathedral window
stretches its thin blue glass
up to an early afternoon sky
fluttering with geese flying north.

The window seems almost out of place
above the Iowa prairie grass
and the pig farm over the ridge.
It seems more like a poppy than a window,
something too delicate
for the harsh seasons of a land
too far away from the river
where calves are born.
The edge of the sky is tinted like the poppies
that bloom every spring
but only for a week.

Maybe the farmhouse
was built by an immigrant family
who lost most of their money
in huge Atlantic waves
as they crossed the ocean.
In the new country
they kept bees and sold sweet honey
until their fingers grew wild
with flowers.

The farmhouses of their neighbors
were large, wide-planked, and white,
but they wanted to build their house differently.
They wanted the highest window
to be an altar to
the geometry of snow.
They wanted to build an open
cathedral to the moon.

Or maybe it was a vision
that came in a farm woman’s dream,
and her husband loved her so much
he had to build it exactly the way she saw.
And when he cut the wild shape of their love
into the wall
like a shrine of poppies,
he rode a dappled horse in the moonlight
to the only glass blower in Dubuque
who could roll the glass for his window
as thin as a dream.
He tinted it with a tiny song
of aqua hummingbirds
to protect his lover’s hands.

The night he finished the window
the full light of the moon
was streaming through the humid air.
The farmer moved their mattress
off the thick fretwork of their iron bed
into a frame of moonlight,
and the way they loved each other
was a mystery in the eye
of a newborn child.

An hour before dawn the next morning,
the cow who ate the shadows in their garden
birthed her calf
on the soft red petals of poppies.
They named the heifer
“Window Full of Moonlight.”
Maybe her mother’s milk had the secret
of the way back home.

Diane Frank is author of three books of poems, The All Night Yemenite Cafe, Rhododendron Shedding Its Skin, and Isis. A recipient of the Whiffen Poetry Prize, two Cressey Book Awards, and an NSFPS Poetry prize, she is also a documentary scriptwriter with expertise in eastern and sacred art. Diane teaches poetry and creative non-fiction workshops.