KR OnlinePoetry

Explaining the Sublime

She says yes trillium is like morning glories but with three long leaves,
much better colors. Not so biological, I say. She

pictures rolling hills, crocuses, and apple blossoms
swooning, perfumed. I say, no your brain is parsing that beauty,
more like huge mountains or vistas of the sea
so blunt
             or featureless they’re terrifying.
             Fear of the unknown, all that water making you feel small.

But how can a waterfall make you afraid? she asks.

                                                                Like you look
into a canyon and a handful of pearls drops
through your chest, I say.

She blinks. I spread my arms out:
Extreme love, when you’re scared by how much you love someone.

She says, I’ve not experienced that yet

So I go retrograde or long as in an involved classroom discussion
to explain fear of the sublime
to the girl who missed weeks
because a doctor misdiagnosed her with cancer.

Cynthia Arrieu-King is an associate professor of creative writing at Stockton College and a former Kundiman fellow. Her books include People are Tiny in Paintings of China (Octopus, 2010) and Manifest, winner of the Gatewood Prize (Switchback, 2013).