Flashback, or Acid Pop Quiz
Stepping from cool interior gloom
onto the glaring patio, I’m momently
overcome, raise a hand to shade my brow
as though sunlight were an angel
saying, “Lo!” Near my feet:
luminous tulips, amethyst petals
forming scarlet-tipped chalices.
My hostess, like a gigantic moth
in her billowy orange dress,
flutters from blossom to bloom,
pausing to dandle and sniff.
I toddle behind, polite smile
disguising faint dread.
(What is it? The heat, the wine plus
jet lag?) I’m suddenly unable to close
against a sensory overload.
A nerve-surge fountains up my spine.
My jaws clamp against a painful
shivering at the root of my tongue.
For an instant, I and the purple iris
I bend toward are one.
Upright, I drift, helpless to catch
what the woman is chattering about,
her face now a garishly grotesque mask.
Just as I think I may have to confess
helplessness and ask to lie down,
a rushing wave looms within.
I feel my little raft tilt (oh please god no)
and ride over the peak as
the wave mercifully deflates.
I come ashore with a few dry compliments.
While she works the sliding door
after I’ve fumbled the tricky latch,
she asks if I’d like another drink.
I glance at the reflected garden, see
my squint-pathetic face.
“Just ice tea if you have any. Thanks.”