by Cate Marvin

For Adam Zagajewski (1945–2021)

I really like that joe pye weed.
Pictures of pretty pink wildflowers
can hinder sorrow for a second,
by the idea of filling my yard with
the distraction of blossoms whose
colors turn on like a hundred radio
stations all at once. The problem
with plants for me is all the names
I can’t remember. The Latin names

will defeat me. I can’t grasp all those
syllables. I don’t want to live this
way anymore, adjacent to a pain
that operates at such a high frequency
it ruins my nerves, insisting I forget
that which is important to me like all
the colors that are possible, which is
why I always resent the question
What is your favorite color when

trying to retrieve a password when
locked out of an account and I have
forgotten the answer I gave the day
I set up that security question: Did I
choose blue or had I thought (again)
that there just are too many blues to
describe and how I like not all of them
but most, most especially the one right
at the tip of dawn, which pours its

crazy syrup of sorrow into your eyes
and makes you think longing is all
this life ought to be about, springing
your nerves into sleep after a long
night’s work, the color of eyes that
refuse to blink, the color of eyes
destroying themselves with sorrow.
The blood slows. Syrup in the veins.
Driving to the grocery store. Many

times I thought to write him, these
letters in my head alive with delight
and gratitude. But failed to. What was
I doing? The moment he slipped into
the ether: Exercise class? Napping?
Conversing with a sea shell? Installing
new locks on my doors? I said I don’t
want to live this way any more. Sweet
joe pye weed is exactly what I need,

its gravel root, trumpet weed, feverweed.
Its kidney root, feathery heads, fibrous
stalks. It’s dominion and its nativity.
I’m not from anywhere, I once lied. Or
did I say red? I would never answer
orange though my secret truth is it’s
actually my favorite color. You’d notice
if you sat in my living room. It’s subtle,
Adam, but it’s threaded in everywhere.

Published on November 24, 2021