Rudbeckia

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the rudbeckia aren’t usually still in bloom,
so close to my birthday,
and even these are brittle –
but in the patch near the small gravel pile,
perhaps sheltered by the overgrown viburnum,

a few stragglers remain.

if I’d noticed them last year I might have arranged
one more vase
and placed it by her bedside,
so she could have turned her head
and thought to herself,
how I love those black-eyed susans.

 

Square with Rounded Corners

The picture of the two of us,
pulled from my suit-coat pocket,
leans on my dresser.

Square with rounded corners,
faded blue ink–
Kodak May 1980–
printed on the back.

I scanned it for my lock screen, too,
so I can see myself
leaning up against her in the slanted spring light.

The first few days after
Mom taught me how to die
were simpler–

but when I walk outside,
leaves are turning and
afternoons are darker now.

I Peel an Orange

Our home is a pale shade of blue,
one you might find looking west in the spring
minutes after sunrise,
or in a robin’s egg whose green tints
have been replaced by gentle grays.

It was once a deep red,
more readily apparent in recent years
from the street-facing, sun-bleached southern side,
where spots of peeling and chipping have grown
past neighborly size,

reflecting the same inertia
that has kept me from replacing
the almost imperceptibly dripping basement pipe.

I peel an orange –
the fruit itself is disappointing and dry;

my son pushes the lawnmower
back and forth across the lawn,
glancing to me each time he makes a turn.

It’s the first time I’ve stood back so far.

Cardboard Box

I’m finally looking into the cardboard box
I brought home from my mother’s house late last month;

The clementines she had insisted I take
and perched on top have long since been eaten;
it’s been otherwise untouched
sitting in the corner of the yellow room.

Two pairs of my infant pajamas–
The yellow, corduroy pair with the embroidered lion,
the faded white and green night dress.
She had remarked on the drawstring she had sewn into the bottom–
how it was still there–
the fold-over sleeves to keep me from scratching myself
as I slept in my crib.

My white shoes, too, laces gone,
but still with their impossibly stiff bottom;
my grandmother’s blue-and-white Canton ware,
wrapped in the 1975 Daily News of Bowling Green, Kentucky.

Just before I left,
we had sat on the basement couch flipping through
faded Kodak prints, square with rounded corners,
taken before we moved into the house on the hill.

We paused at one where I wore that night dress,
my sister and I standing
in the deep darkness of an evening east window.
There were others, too, from that forty-years-ago,
and she told me again about each one.

We had such fun, she said,
such fun.