Lilies by Tina Barry

We hurried across 53rd Street, my hand in Mother’s, both of us dressed fancy
for a day in the city. Sun cast a building’s dark diamond on the pavement,
and I thought, That’s art, too. And glamorous, although I didn’t know
the word, couldn’t have told you why.
Inside, a swoosh of wool skirts, men’s sports jackets, one dull gray.
Eyes closed I saw (see, still) the underbelly of a dove.
A vast room at the Museum of Modern Art, on each tall wall,
as if seeded and birthed there: water lilies.
You’d say it was the flowers, crushed from Monet’s days, their offering
of furled hearts, that moved me.
More than awe. But in my navy coat and ugly galoshes,
mouth wonder-dumb, that’s the word you would have used.
When a stroke scrambles your brain, when my mother loses words, when a ghoul
levels a country, I consider the soul. Wonder what feeds it, what gobbles it away.
I ask for a whiff of mineral pond water, the ting of a lightly tapped triangle, some sign—
any sign—to learn the lilies live inside me.


Tina Barry is the author of Beautiful Raft (Big Table Publishing, 2019) and Mall Flower (Big Table Publishing, 2016). Her poems and fiction have appeared in numerous literary publications such as The Best Small Fictions 2020 (spotlighted story) and 2016, Drunken Boat, The American Poetry Journal, Yes, Poetry, Sky Island Journal, Verse-Virtual, Lascaux Review, Nasty Women Poets, A Constellation of Kisses and upcoming in Rattle. Tina is a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee and has several Best of the Net nods. She is a teaching artist at The Poetry Barn and

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