“Tulip Heart” by Sarah Van Arsdale

martha,pointillist horizontal
Martha Dunfee


On your desk, a vase of tulips, yellow-red. This

curved and straight-stemmed colorcluster is
the force of life and beauty against the
grey, against the day’s news with its urgency:
the vote in Washington. But the tulips insist: Live!
and go on, even as they’re dying too. And
you know the morning paper still awaits. But have
your coffee in your ceramic cup, the one your
mother made, wheel spinning underneath her feet. There’s blooming
here, the lovely tulips’ lovely line, green stems in
the watery glass, and ahead of you the
whole suffering day, the legislators’ noise
about to shatter the world, but this is the stuff of
life, this is what it is to be awake. The
way you survive is to carry your tulip heart into the whirlwind.
Note: this poem is a “Golden Shovel,” using a line from “The Second Sermon on the
Warpland” by Gwendolyn Brooks to make up the end words of the lines.


Sarah Van Arsdale is an award-winning author of four books of fiction, including Toward Amnesia (Riverhead Books, 1996), Grand Isle (SUNY Press, 2012) and In Case of Emergency, Break Glass (QFP, 2016); her fifth book, The Catamount, a narrative poem illustrated with her watercolors, was published in 2017 by Nomadic Press. She teaches at NYU and in the Antioch/LA low-residency MFA program, and she leads writing workshops in Mexico, with Maine Media and with Art Workshop International.