Saturday, June 2, 2018

Sadie Steinberg (1920-2018)

Field Guide

by Lisa Hirschfield
for her grandmother Sadie

Our morning walks
through cool chaparral
salt air and wild sage
trying and often failing
to memorize 
the accurate flash 
of color
until I could get home 
and open the book you gave me 

Golden-crowned sparrow 
house finch
Oregon junco
not to be confused 
with the rufous-sided towhee
and once the actual blue 
of a robin’s egg

All unexotic
but I wanted to know their names
their songs
their seasons
their other homes

Unlike learning to press wildflowers
watching your hands
gently arranging
sand aster

and the illicit orange 
of the California poppy 
We interred them between volumes 
of the World Book Encyclopedia 

For days I imagined pages 
of bright fields
But there was no place 
in my world yet
for faded things forced
into the wrong dimension

Though I must have saved them somewhere
because I never could throw anything away
because back then 
everything had a face

Now I am only sure of your body
so delicate it takes
four men to lift
so you can lie in the garden 
maybe feel the breeze
brush your paper skin

I imagine myself descending 
like you into these flowers 
you once named cosmos
but then my body buoyed 
by this invisible sea 
of sound and light 

How will you recede 
to that single point in the dark

When I was ten 
you told me 
once you hear a meadowlark
you can never forget it

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