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.



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