My mother’s hands clip long slim stems
of fresh gladioli. The August flower.
A white one today, to mark the hour
of her birth. A greeting from the earth.
It is her birthday. As if they know,
the flowers spread a fantail before her, red.
Her body bends like stems
battered by too much rain.
She clutches the stalks.
She talks of years when her body too swayed
with the grace of youth, not the bending of age.
It is her birthday, ninety-five years made
of her life, years she climbed stage by stage
the way these flowers open, one by one.
Soft hands curling open bright fingers
rippled stems separating as the blossoms open
each tier replacing the one below
as we all replace each other on the earth.
Nothing that’s living dies.
The limp dry leaves eke life back
into the earth, into the womb of the bulb.
These silent respectful standards
in reds, whites, yellows,
surround her son in his resting place.
She kneels before him, her hand on his,
whispering a prayer. The flowers listen.
They reach upward as she can’t,
an extra lift toward the ear of God.
I wish I could save them: stockpile glads
in a crystal warehouse for her
against the dimness of winter,
the endless days of loss.