The flowers dying in the vase, the black-eyed susans
and lavender, especially, refuse my unrefined pity, sorry
in its own right. My stares filter through their dry wisps
and catch on the tree in the yard, the one with the severed
branch dangling, the dead limb almost as long and full as a boy
some would call a man.
I am ashamed that I do not know what kind of tree
my mind has hung that body from. This memory is not
a memory of a boy who was never a boy, but a branch
the tree will carry until it cannot. The tree would be right not to
accept my shame as apology.
Above the head-high arm of the jockey
on the flowers’ vase, a whip stretches, curving subtly
in the shadow-dimmed porcelain. I spare the horse my sadness
at the impending sting of leather on his brown flank—
the flowers have taken that sorrow as their own. I am reminded
again of what I am inventing: the pitcher is black and white;
so, too, the horse and his rider. Where else
have I found color where it never grew?
The flowers that, for what little I know, could be tickseed
and Russian sage, stand firm when I offer one last reparation, a pitcher
of fresh water. And I consider this, how thin an offering of life
when made under the wrong name, transparent as condensation on a pane
through which I see another tree, its even smaller boy.
I can no less forgive my mind than can a saw forgive its blade
for what it has unmade. The drops of water
on the glass face of the door run fast toward the ground.
The limb is cut from the tree’s body. The flowers,
at last, shudder and bow.