“One more,” they whispered. Please, their ink-black eyes urged in silence. I looked across the field of poppies where now thousands of goldfinches had gathered. Their red faces blended so well with the flowers that I could only distinguish one from the other when the birds fluffed their feathers, causing ripples across the field, just long enough to interrupt the illusion, not unlike when the young woman dissolves into the old woman, or the old takes the shape of the young.

Illustration of a skull and poppies by Tiffany Lovage

“You can’t do another one,” my heart protested. “Please, I’m scared.” I echoed back while I kept my gaze undisturbed so as to not break the quiet. The master had long warned me about this moment. The right choice, she told me, would feel as if I was walking down the meadow naked, my soul exposed, my arterial blood red blood drained from oxygen.

I had been here before. But I couldn’t. And I’m here now again. And I can’t. “Poppy, this is water…This is your chance.” I hear my master, but I can’t bring her back, not today. Another love story is what they asked. Another one is what they’ll get. One day, I’ll tell them about the flowers that are long gone, and the weeds that have taken their place.


Tiffany Lovage

Tiffany Lovage created the illustration for “Poppy.”

Toffey, as I love to call her, used to be my trainer. My first session with her was also one of my artist dates. We mirrored each other’s messy buns and ended up talking about bucket lists and creativity.

She told me later that day, “It wasn’t a mere coincidence that you came into my life today.” I like to think it wasn’t either.

Some Background

One day, during our writing challenge, my coding mentor Lars asked me for a writing prompt. I replied with the suggestion to write a story using the words arterial blood red, goldfinch, and poppy.

I had picked these words from Nicholas Rougeux’s recreation of Syme’s color guidebook, to which Lars himself had introduced me earlier.

Arterial Blood Red is Lars’s favorite color on the list, a red tint that’s associated with the head of a cock goldfinch and corn poppy cherries in the same guide.

I decided to give my own writing prompt a go as well and that’s how “Poppy” came to be.

If you’re wondering, Ink Black and Prussian Blue are two of my favorites.