The Archivist walks out of the book
and into evening early. On his street, the houses
line up like good teeth. The Archivist’s neighbor
misses his wife. Thirty years ago, she quit
the house and the twilight swallowed her.
Still searching, the neighbor
opens the belly of the neighborhood cat.
The Archivist, mind fast
to his research, passes the plundered animal by.
Books clutter his seeing. The knife, a better eye.
The flowers are screaming
the old scream. The Archivist opens his mouth
to join them. The scream clarifies an elsewhere.
He saw the flowers there.
The tulips were red.
“Perennial” from Civil Service. Copyright © 2022 by Claire Schwartz. Used with the permission of Graywolf Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota, www.graywolfpress.org