flowers like infants, across our arms

JESSICA HUDGINS

Plants were Dad’s thing. Mom hated the compost
pile. She mispronounced “zinnia,” which is how he
might have spoken of her: using a name, but failing to
name the thing. In an old photo, he looks at her
(pregnant). I’d like to go back to that moment, watch
his eyes. To hear the words—Erin—Mother—wife—in
his mouth.

Sun Doll……..Little Showoff
……..Baby Blessed……..Cherry Garden—
although I do not believe that her voice, her gaze did
……..not also break.

In elementary school, teachers clip Queen-Anne’s
lace, place it in a bowl of dyed-red water. We watch it
blush. The lesson is capillary action, how water flows
against gravity. They hand out flowers—it’s easy to
take on another’s shame—to each of us, and we make
them into a corsage.

He planted lantana for butterflies, and in the summer
their wings flamed around it. Winter, he pruned it
back, and the whole plant calloused over.

When my grandmother dies, I gather her azaleas. I
pull the stems back at the joints. The old bark cracks,
and the new growth bends, then comes away in thin
strips. I imagine a child outgrowing the sink, learning,
against her mother’s thighs, how to shower.

Where the pond skaters’ legs meet the water,
…………….]a small pool of air is proof of their weight.
……..I can’t feel it when they start across my skin.
Days pass, opening and closing.
……..The wind pushes me into this or that path.

I remember pulling pine needles apart, trying to
predict which thread would give first. He said, don’t tell
her that, she’ll get vain
. He said, she’s easy to entertain.
Knotweed grows in the small patches of yards along
my street—I nod, pinching my thumb- and fingernail
down a green stem, loosing its pink beads across the
cement.

My friend says the inner arm is soothing because it’s
what we look at in the womb. She pulls mint at the
root, it grows like a weed, and shakes the dirt free. Water
falling from tassels of hair.

Adapted to a neighbor’s morning walk, I wake, pull
on pants, a shirt, and strain to hear that whistle go
around the corner, down the street.

Dawn, afternoon, and night, petals like funnels gather
the sky-washings.

Fake flowers in Easter baskets; fake eggs in the
grandparents’ yard. We match in bragging photos.
Years later, bouquets everywhere, Mom attends the
funeral. She gets the four of us together—each with a
can from the opened 24-pack of Natty Light. Dad
leaves; we finish it off.

From every Christmas we smile in our sweaters: the
red in the holly’s berries, and the green in the leaves,
and the gold leaves on the ground, and the red, the
green.

JESSICA HUDGINS lives in Baltimore, where she teaches creative writing and co-organizes the reading series Hey You, Come Back! Her poetry appears or is forthcoming in The Journal, Baldhip Magazine, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and elsewhere. She earned her MFA from the Writing Seminars.