“Deep Purple”

Alice Friman Click to


Alice Friman has new poetry forthcoming in Ploughshares, Georgia Review, and Negative Capability. Her sixth collection is The View from Saturn, LSU. A new collection, Blood Weather, is due from LSU in 2019. She’s the winner of many awards, the latest, the 2016 Paumanok Poetry Award. She lives in Milledgeville, Georgia, where she was poet-in-residence at Georgia College.


Monday, and today’s job is cleanup.
I’m humming an old song to keep
me company, something about purple
and a garden wall. The children
are concerned, for it was only yesterday
I measured out my future, stretching
greedy-big as open arms could reach.
Now here I am, backsliding into old lyrics.

I’m reminded of a woman I once knew
who loved purple—not lavender, that sickly
excuse—but deep purple. She wore it,
painted the inside of her house with it,
her lips, her nails, the bottom of her pool
where she’d spend long afternoons floating
in tinted water. She claimed she didn’t
know the song, neither words nor tune,
written before her time, but there, behind
her eyes, behind her studied cheerfulness,
it must have existed. Not the do-wop version
that ruined it, but the old one that a patched-up
woman might have a need for.

I know, this has little to do with cleaning,
except to say her house was spotless,
not a thing out of place, as if she spent
each morning shoving back in a back closet
too deep for any rag to reach, a memory.
I want to think it was about love. About
a cherished someone sucked prematurely
out of this world, draining away like
a slow twilight into the ground. A lingering
subtraction that left her lost, wandering
in deep purple, nightshade, and sorrow.