I never understood why my father,
a hulking hunter and fisherman,
a roofer with meaty paws
that could wrap around my head
twice and still hold a hammer,
would take such pride in his flowers.
The garden—I got, but the flowers threw me
until this moment, kneeling
between the gladiolas and lilies,
weeding out the background noise.
I see, for the first time, how
each leaf curves into a theory, how
stems support the chins of flowers like
the way parents observe a newborn’s neck,
how their mouths never open,
how they never disturb your thoughts.
I dried out memories
The white carnations on my first prom corsage,
given to me by the boy I lost my virginity to.
A black eyed Susan pressed between Whitman’s Leaves of Grass
picked while traveling across the country with a lover.
My Wedding bouquet still hangs upside down
in the attic, my daughter’s middle name Rose respectfully.
It wasn’t until after I turned thirty,
that I grew my own flowers from seed, waited impatiently
for the first kick, for the earth to part, for her to emerge
and bend toward me as if I were a source of light.
On a coloring book, my daughter serves me a plastic sunny side-up egg and a dandelion.
She climbs into bed with me and asks why I can’t stop shaking. I don’t tell her my skin is
falling off my bones, instead I close my eyes and pretend my body’s submerged in white
desert sand, below a sun-bleached ram skull. Georgia, sometimes I think I should have
known better. The doctors are onto me. I thought of you when I bought Dutch Iris bulbs
yesterday, to replace all of the ones that did not grow. They are of the slim variety, not
ostentatious and voluptuous like yours. Obsessed with how I will teach my daughter about
womanhood, how to wear horns like a bonnet, how to paint flowers as if after wilting a skeleton
will survive them, how to kneel into decisions as if fertile soil, I summon up your vision
and hope I can translate how, “sun-bleached bones were most wonderful against the blue
that blue that will always be there as it is now after all man’s destruction is finished.”
Rebecca Schumejda is the author of Falling Forward, a full-length collection of poems (sunnyoutside, 2009); The Map of Our Garden (verve bath, 2009); Dream Big Work Harder (sunnyoutside press 2006); The Tear Duct of the Storm (Green Bean Press, 2001); and the poem “Logic” on a postcard (sunnyoutside). She received her MA in Poetics and Creative Writing from San Francisco State University and her BA in English and Creative Writing from SUNY New Paltz. She lives with her husband and daughter in New York ’s Hudson Valley.