My mother read each page of her Burpee catalogs
with the patience of an old oak tree.
She longed for the promise
offered by purple, yellow, red, green
life that would unfold just as you’d expect
in response to devoted planting,
judicious watering, and giving
with ungloved, thorn-distressed hands.
Mother tended to eager jonquils,
pansies waving their butter-
yellow and plum petals, these
tiny flirtatious beauties
wedged between red brick
and ever-expanding blue
hydrangea on our minuscule front lawn.
There was no need for her
to yell or glower
to get these things to grow
upright, show respect. All
her flowers breathed out
My mother staked roses named Fire and Ice,
dug up earth and delivered
to it shattered egg shells,
rescued coffee grinds, fish heads
unfurled from pages of the New York Times,
important, pungent gifts to
her floral adoptees, who waited
with hungry sepals, petals, and stems.
Even those roses, snipped,
arranged in one of Grandma’s delicate vases,
deprived of their vines, did not
or their own imminent death.
The ubiquity of cut roses—
I despised those obsequious
flora. Every day they were gifted
with all that
I was not.
Iris N. Schwartz is a fiction writer, as well as a Pushcart-Prize-nominated poet. Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming from such journals as Bindweed Magazine, The Flash Fiction Press, The Gambler, Gravel, Gyroscope Review, Jellyfish Review, Pure Slush (Volume 12), Silver Birch Press, and Siren.