By Amy Pollard
You tighten your grip on your wind-battered umbrella and huddle beneath its protective wing. The headstone before you is dark and impending, mimicking the distant mountains, almost glaring at you as you bend over and arrange your store-bought daisies in the little built-in vase.
How your grandmother loved flowers. Already you can smell her rosy perfume serenading your nostrils. You remember the garden she kept in the back of her house and how she would let you inside it. She would name all the flowers, stretching around you like an endless rainbow. After you had seen all of the buds, she would fetch her watering can and feed the flowers, all the while telling you how important water was in sustaining life. “Water is the key to any garden,” she would say. “Without it, there can be no growth.” Then she would go on about the beauty of the flowers and the satisfaction of tending them. She’d given you some seeds, once—pansies, your favorite—and encouraged you to plant them in your apartment window tray.
But you didn’t listen back then. You never listened. Always too busy. Always something else on your mind. What was growing a bunch of skimpy flowers compared to getting your rent paid a month in advance? What was a watering can compared to a raise at work? What was a homegrown garden compared to a house—a real house? You gulp, a teardrop swelling in your eye when you remember the cold, callous funeral procession, full of intoxicating well-wishes and sobering hymns. It wasn’t until the dust accumulated on your unopened pansy seeds that you began to wonder if a garden might do you good. You started thinking about the seeds and how you’d never planted them or given them water, how you’d never given them anything but a dusty existence on the corner of your shelf. Your head felt unusually jammed as you mulled it all over. A garden wouldn’t hurt. In fact, you rather liked the idea. Maybe you could plant the pansies. Maybe you could start over. Rising to your feet, you glimpse the daisies, still strangled by their price tag, and you sigh. It will do no good. You’ve forgotten to pick up the gardening tools on your way here. You have no shovel. You have no spade. You don’t even have a watering can. What a fool you’ve been, thinking it was that easy, that simple to nurture life. Now those cheap daisies are the best that you will ever do. Biting your lip until it bleeds, you swallow and turn away from the gravestone. And then a drop of water splashes onto your cheek.
The umbrella slips out of your palm and sprawls on the grass, sticky and shriveled. You take the packet of seeds out of your pocket. You get down on your hands and knees and start tearing open the earth. The soil cakes your fists as you dig further down. You hadn’t stopped to examine the packet or read the directions. But what four-by-four inch packet could explain how to coax flowers from the ground, how to wring water from the skies or how to hold the sun’s potent gaze long enough to make it all possible? What could ever explain any of that to you?
You feel the rain spilling over you and suddenly you can see. The trees become an emerald carpet spread over the mountains, distant and knowing, veiled in cloudy starlight. The rain dares to whisper its secrets to you as it drums across the grass. The moist, grimy earth mixes with the cold, crisp water as you empty the packet into the man-made hole before hastily packing the dirt back in again. A paid rent, a raise at work and a real house are the last thing on your mind now as the water soaks your face as surely as it is soaking the pansy seeds, lying in wait beneath the earth. All your life, you’ve waited for this garden. You gaze up at the sky, a chalky silver, and see the clouds unfurling. The radiance splashes onto the graves around you, shedding light onto the unborn pansy seeds as if to wake them from their slumber, enticing them to bloom a season early.
You scrape the tears from your cheeks and gaze at the smooth stone in front of you. She has never been this close before. You feel the rain spilling over you and suddenly you know that the world will keep turning, the water will keep falling, and the flowers will keep blooming. Your lips break into a smile. You can’t believe it’s taken you this long.
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Amy Pollard is a poet, writer and student. She maintains a book review blog at cafereads.blogspot.com. Her poetry has appeared (or is forthcoming) in Emerge Literary Journal, Eunoia Review and The Copperfield Review.
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