It’s a year after my father’s death,
and my mother sleeps late.
We don’t wake her.

The peeling birch bark breaks off
with a satisfying crack.
Underneath is baby-smooth skin.

Across the street in the park,
I keep company with bees as they hover
around the misshapen mess of honeysuckle.

My sandaled feet grind against gravel,
a sound like my mother’s crying in the red chair.
The magnolia with its proud dark leaves,

yellow stamen bulb, and petals
drooping white envelopes of scent.
I’d feel small

except for the tiny crabapple next to it,
next to me, carrying tart cargo
everyone knows is the brains of this garden.

No one talks as much as the roses,
gossiping like the mean girls
making fun of my new bra.

Wind ruffles my hair with its fluster of kisses,
currents that bleed my heart raw.
I can almost smell

the faint diesel of the school bus,
but it’s Sunday.
I look at the abandoned greenhouse

with its carcasses of orchids
alone in the hot quiet.
And sweet peas should be budding

but the arbor is leaning
like a fallen scarecrow
that’s given up the field to the crows.

The contrails of a jet weep overhead
on its way to someplace exotic,
someplace not here.

But here, in our mother’s rose garden,
my arms around my thin white shoulders,
I imagine someone hugging me so tight

I can’t breathe.