In Defiance of the Diagnosis, Erin Wilson

Philip Kobylarz, Don’t Jump, Photograph



In Defiance of the Diagnosis


Outside, in a blue ceramic flower pot
on our white enamel-topped table,

the red geranium, rescued from the cemetery,
sprouts a gorgeous new heart-like head.

The two casement windows overhead
seem thrown open like Mediterranean shutters.

Glenn Gould’s Variations dribbles from the window sill
to flow over me and the flowers below.

Soon I’ll have to rise to flip the record.
Might this be 1970 again?

Even the neighbourhood granny shouting
“No ice cream!” at her tadpole grandkids

is conducive to this nostalgic event.
Two days ago my husband cut the grass

and yet dandelion clocks, already eight inches high,
practice time travel with me—

why be here now,
when then offered everything one needed?

At our old home, my mother filled
a glass avocado pitcher with crisp sugared water,

and with light, able hands,
arranged a dozen lassitudinous lilac heads.

I can still smell them.

And dinner will soon be ready.

Erin Wilson


Review by Claire Scott

Wow what a great poem! I love how the title sets up the poem without a long explanation. I also really like the braiding of flowers and the cemetery. Some lovely language. I like “heart-like head” to describe the geranium and “lassitudinous lilac heads” to describe the lilac. The melding of past and present is well done. I wonder if “waft” would be a better description than “dribbles” to describe the music. I was confused by “avocado pitcher.”  The last two lines are terrific, but maybe end with “And dinner will be ready soon.” Or maybe not. Thanks for an emotional poem without sappiness. A wonderful example of “showing, not telling.”


Review by Philip Kirsch

It could be that the mother died (“the red geranium, rescued from the cemetery”); it could be that the husband or the speaker has received bad news, or that the diagnosis applies to living in the modern world.  But what matters is the “time travel,” made possible by the details that adorn the poem:  not just a pitcher, but “a glass avocado pitcher”; it’s “crisp sugared water,” “a blue ceramic flower pot” and music dribbling from the window sill.  Let me get up and flip that record; mother’s dinner “will soon be ready.”


Review by David Goodrum

Starting with the title, I am immediately caught up in the themes of survival, perseverance, and the joys of everyday life, both past and present. The voice of the poem revels in the moment, a flow of observations and memories that includes a “red geranium, rescued from the cemetery,” “the neighborhood granny shouting”, music dribbling down “from the window sill”, newborn dandelions, and a reminiscence of mother and smells from long ago. Is memory time travel when experienced in the here-and-now? Or is it a defiant escape of today’s burdens? Does that even matter when “dinner will soon be ready”? As a reader, my own problems fell away momentarily as I became immersed in a string of evocative experiences. One critique… the word “lassitudinous” — so unlike the everyday language of the rest of the poem — was a bit jarring.



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