by Leatha Kendrick
The trees, stubbornly bare, have fenced the sky past where
I wanted spring. It’s April again – April!
and every day an anniversary. Death days, birthdays
laid one over the other: Mother
gave up her life on April 9th,
a day I’d learned to love
with loving Aunt Virginia,
born on that date.
And how were the trees at her birth? In coves
and along the muddy river when her mother
held her, newly sprung from the dark? all the unknown
swirling out from the two of them. None of it
what they imagined. The day Mother died
down in Nashville, trees bloomed with a ferocious
hunger. The sky beat a burgeoning blue. “Maybe dying’s
like being given a box of what will be
trumpets," a poet said once. “Maybe
it feels like a mistake and you plant them.”
Each of us growing from bulb to blaring blossom,
each of us staining the noses of those who embrace us
with our pollen’s lush desire to be carried forward.
Maybe we leave no more than this
transient emblem, bright orange,
on the world – though
in the blooming we pull everything toward us,
into the impossible sweetness of our brief nectar.
Mother, aunt tucked snug under April’s flourishing grass.
As if the soil could hold anything but husk
once a bulb is spent. April glides forward
in the spin of planet and sun through the zero
of space, whatever that means – “space.”
Like clockwork, this clicking onward, this ticking
of what we call time. What do we know? Don’t I wake up
talking on to the dead? Don’t I orbit them still,
these planets and suns? And our own deaths?
Delivered unsought in a box, something we know
we didn’t order – scaled bulbs nestled
in shredded brown paper, or the diagnosis
blooming from the young cardiologist’s mouth--
mere shaped breath and sound, wet with the damp
of his living lungs. Words that disperse
as they are spoken. But I have received them,
They’ve been delivered. I’ve gathered them
into my body, an unwanted package solid as lead
lodged in my chest. It’s April, sunshine blowing
somewhere outside. Trees undoing their winter sleep,
bulbs breaking open down in the heavy wet dirt,
waxy leaves pushing green up to the light.
It’s April, the dead waiting, still, in gone kitchens,
in remembered yards, holding our births, our deaths,
the whole of time in their timeless eyes. At their feet,
lilies, still buried, gather themselves to flare.