Cataracts – by Beth Boylan

after Barbara Hamby

I am slicing radishes when my mother phones to say
she liked the photo of my hydrangea
and she will have her cataracts removed in September.
I want to say Finally but bite my tongue because she and I
are killing sadness these days, working hard at joy.
I want to say so many things:
how a flower turns from pink to blue in the night
or how I pushed a lemon seed into soil four summers ago and now have shade—
that once in a while I can almost see her dolled up and laughing again,
serving up cocktails and beef bourguignon to the neighbors, trusting my tiny hands
to carry out the tray of hors d’oeuvres. I loved her
long velvet skirts and silk blouses, especially the one with giant polka dots,
when we saw Schindler’s List and cried over Carvel on the way home.
She doesn’t remember we spoke yesterday
but still tears up over the little girl in the red coat. I want to tell her
that the little girl in the red coat is now 32 and lives in Krakow
and is helping Ukrainian refugees cross the border.
I want to tell her so many things
about each ex-lover tattooed on my insides and what we shared:
stolen pint glasses and snowstorms, peach pie at a road stand, a cemetery in Paris;
how her anger used to remind me of the hissing pipes in my third-floor walk-up on Jane Street,
and how like a cloudy lens behind the iris is this sliver of pinkish vegetable.
I want to ask her if, along with the highway and her watercolors,
she will see me more clearly come fall.


Originally from New York, Beth Boylan now writes and teaches high-school English near the ocean in New Jersey. She holds an MA in Literature from Hunter College. Her poetry has been nominated for both a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net and appears, or is forthcoming, in journals including Rust + Moth, New York Quarterly, Feral: A Journal of Poetry and Art, Whale Road Review, and Glass: A Journal of Poetry. You may find her on Instagram at @bethiebookworm.