Amy King, “Some Pink in Your Color”

Some Pink in Your Color (from Poetry)
Amy King

Did you know I’m in this hospital bed?
I’m not. I’m in the same light you stand in,
much the same way I’m in the waist of your Carolina
watching from the screen across the bed
whose pulse is worn down with an IV to the head.

We are all snow birds atop
the cherry blossoms of August.
Springtime in Washington D.C.
passed too fast, nearly in the flash of Rose
brushing her teeth over the bedpan.

No adrenal gland has known such cortisol,
such heartbreaking I love you O my God,
so many soldiers on the brink of their lives returning!
Are we still talking to the same god?

I can’t imagine the heart anymore
now that it presses my ribs apart,
a balloon of such gravity I ache for stars in a jar,
wasps whose love reminds me of fireflies tonight.

Comment:

When we feel pity toward one in a hospital bed, we’re trying to mask our own confusion. No one knows this better than the one lying in the bed. The speaker of this poem begins by identifying this phenomenon, which does not have an easily identifiable principle (it is confusion, after all):

Did you know I’m in this hospital bed?
I’m not. I’m in the same light you stand in,
much the same way I’m in the waist of your Carolina
watching from the screen across the bed
whose pulse is worn down with an IV to the head.

The “same light” indicates both the speaker and the one having pity are being judged much the same by something more objective. Still, the speaker sees herself as the point of differentiation. She is “in the waist of your Carolina,” inside the ambiguity that somehow allows us to draw a limit between two places. We may not even know what those two places are. Are we talking about within a Carolina? Between the Carolinas? “Watching from the screen across the bed” is a bit clearer: the speaker might as well be an image, might as well be dead (or, given “watching,” be the only active spirit in the room). That fundamental confusion between life and death itself is echoed with “an IV to the head.” If you’re sitting around feeling sorry for someone else, maybe it helps to ask what on earth you’ve done with your life, if you’ve actually lived.

The speaker may have been a bit too blunt. Her reason, which may be objective despite her being the very point on which the problem turns, dismisses what is obvious for the spectator. The immediate audience sees someone in a hospital bed. Life and death are too clear for them, too in their face. The second stanza gives us another sort of confusion, that of the seasons. We don’t know what time it is, generally. The time we think most seasonable passes by too fast and we didn’t have a chance to be prepared. A vague hope spring would come doesn’t mean we’ll make use of it when it does. If you don’t know time, you don’t know place. The second stanza uses “we,” whereas before “I” and “you” were distinct. “Reason” is going to be put aside and replaced with something more sympathetic: What do we want to believe?

The third stanza shows even that’s a problem. Let’s reduce faith into a physiological phenomenon. Let’s say it’s like a hormone pumping: your brain produces X, it has consequence Y. Nope, nothing makes sense even then. Here are soldiers. They were sent into the fray, many expected death. They’re back home. We wanted them back home. We also wanted victory. What were we even praying about? Were we ever willing to accept that the price of victory might be death? If we can’t accept that, do we know what life is (“on the brink of their lives”)?

Finally, no more reason, no more faith, just the beating heart alone:

I can’t imagine the heart anymore
now that it presses my ribs apart,
a balloon of such gravity I ache for stars in a jar,
wasps whose love reminds me of fireflies tonight.

The confusion is about where to begin. The spectator is more than likely thinking about things being better. But the speaker is just wishing nothing like this never happened. “Stars in a jar” is a hope for a childlike wonder. There were manageable pains once, the promise of warm nights. You can’t really begin with moments that are near fatal. Everything is collapsing. The anger lies in the inability to communicate that, as it is incommunicable.

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