Girl with a Red Ribbon by Terri Kirby Erickson

Girl with a Red Ribbon

Inspired by “The Red Ribbon,” by artist Abby Warman

This is not so much a girl standing on a sandy
beach, but the impression of a girl—

one who wears a white dress that is more
like a canvas upon which the rising sun paints

its roseate glow, its pale reflections of blue
water. She is carrying a straw hat and striped

towel. Tied in her hair is a bow the color of ripe
strawberries. Pausing in a pool of purple

meant to be her shadow, she is surrounded
by streaks of light as bright as an ivory gull’s

feathers. Yet, it is the rich, red ribbon that calls
to women who remember well the pull

and tug of tying, our mother’s hands as soft
as satin against the nape of our necks—how we,

impatient to be gone, barely felt them—would
give almost anything to feel them now.

*

Terri Kirby Erickson is the author of six collections of poetry, including A Sun Inside My Chest (Press 53), winner of the 2021 International Book Award for Poetry. Her work has appeared in “American Life in Poetry,” Asheville Poetry Review, Healing the Divide, How to Love the World, Poet’s Market, The Christian Century, The Sixty-Four: Best Poets of 2019, The Sun, The Writer’s Almanac, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and many more. Awards include the Joy Harjo Poetry Prize and a Nautilus Silver Book Award. She lives in North Carolina.

The White Bench by Terri Kirby Erickson

The White Bench

In memory of my mother and father

High on a hill above our house, sits
a white, wrought iron bench that belonged
to my parents for years. It looks randomly placed,
as if it were lifted from their yard by a tornado,
and dropped where it is now, in mine.
But I can see it from our screened-in porch
and through all the back windows—the arched
backrest with its white roses and curled
leaves that almost look like lace, how it glows
and glistens when the sun begins to rise
above the red oaks and poplars. When resting
on its cool seat after climbing the steep hill,
I can see the whole neighborhood, as if I were a bird
on a branch. And the breeze seems to find me
there, on my parents’ bench, more than
anywhere else in the yard—memories, too,
as well as scenes I can imagine—like my mother
spotting it in the store, how her face settled
into longing, how my father, who loved
her so, said let’s take it home, and they did.

*

Terri Kirby Erickson is the author of six collections of poetry, including A Sun Inside My Chest (Press 53, Fall, 2020). Her work has appeared in “American Life in Poetry,” Asheville Poetry Review, Atlanta Review, JAMA, Poet’s Market, The Christian Century, The Sun, The Writer’s Almanac, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Verse Daily, and many others. Her awards include the Joy Harjo Poetry Prize, Nazim Hikmet Award, and a Nautilus Silver Book Award. She lives in North Carolina.

Night Talks by Terri Kirby Erickson

Night Talks

When one would wake in the night, the other
followed. Then, in their bed, next to their window
that was always open, my mother and father
would talk to the sound of cars going by,
the hum of streetlights, the occasional bark
of a neighbor’s dog. They spoke of high school
dances, family vacations, raising children,
being grandparents. And their faces, soft
with age and sleep, were hidden in the dark,
so they could speak at last of their lost son,
without any need to shield each other from
that pain. It must have been a relief to unpack
the shared sadness they courageously carried,
to put it down, if only for an hour. It was like
I could hear them from my own bed
across town, as I slipped into a deeper sleep,
reassured and comforted by their beloved
familiar voices echoing among the stars.

 

Terri Kirby Erickson is the author of six collections of poetry, including A Sun Inside My Chest (Press 53, Fall, 2020). Her work has appeared in Ted Kooser’s “American Life in Poetry,” Asheville Poetry ReviewAtlanta ReviewJAMAPoet’s MarketThe Christian CenturyThe SunThe Writer’s AlmanacValparaiso Poetry ReviewVerse Daily, and many others. Her awards include the Joy Harjo Poetry Prize, Nazim Hikmet Award, and a Nautilus Silver Book Award. She lives in North Carolina.