My mother prowled the yard, winding wires around bare stems of rose bushes, attaching Woolworth's plastic roses- her flowered house dress puffed out full, hair lifting like flames. I watched, embarrassed by how tacky, how pathetic but it had been a bad spring all around what with Dad's drinking and with nothing blooming, and from where I stood I had to admit they looked pretty. The distance between shame and pride is so mutable we use both words for the same thing: She has no shame. She has no pride. Can this be true? By my calculation over forty thousand hours have passed since that moment and still I see her and the bell of that dress, not a scrim in sight, just sheets snapping on the line behind her, weeds shivering at her ankles. And the way she moved, the way she went at it -a driven thing-another of the countless gestures she would subsume in silence, a look in the eye we all knew meant: Say nothing. And when she sank away into the heap of mystery books on the couch, a theater of colors in the window behind her-the strange brilliance and juxtaposition of fake and real-I began to believe in hope as something that could be invented even under dire skies, even when wind sliced around thorns and we waited for the phone to ring, and for spring to become spring. (first appeared in Peregrine)
Kathleen Lynch writes poetry, fiction, and essays. She currently lives in the San Francisco Bay area where she serves on the Advisory Board of the Center for Literary Arts at San Jose State University.