“The Traffic of Tulips” by S Stephanie

S Stephanie, LPN

—for Nelson

We have waited too long
for Spring, a little sun,
any small sign
during this white of white Februaries
would sustain us,
Nelson and me.
We are tired of the chicken soup,
the second helpings of apple pie,
the bulk of our sweaters,
his detailed descriptions
of New York in the ’20s,
but in March he dies.

When the snow finally melts
under his empty window
tulips sprout without regard.
They bloom in the late April rain,
slender yet looming
fire, fire reds,
only a handful
are school bus yellow.
If they were traffic
they would clatter incessantly
across the potholes,
in the Spring winds
if they were buildings
they would seem to sway.

Only the dead take too much with them,
the other half of a memory,
as if that cart Nelson drove
delivering dry goods to the outskirts
of the city, its horse were now gone,
halved in the stories of his children,
quartered in the stories of theirs,
and so on, until it becomes nothing
but a white line in the algebraic pie
on some faded blackboard
in a one room schoolhouse
that seems to sway.

And only the human dead
leave too much behind
in the way of old clothes
one can’t forget them in,
clutter and bottles of expired pills
everyone wanted so badly to work,
the shiny yellow capsules
flushed and floating
along the city sewer now,
vivid as those memories
we search to see him in,
holding up his rough hands
that planted so many
raw, red tulips.

from Rattle #28, Winter 2007

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