December 1, 2021

I BROUGHT HER TULIPS

She was older,
           the woman I loved.
I wore my suspenders
           low to hold
                    my boyhood hidden.

I followed her.
           “Come”, she said,
“Let us walk through
           the streets and note
                    the qualities of people.”

“What sport is that?,”
           I asked – football fresh,
fallen too short for baskets,
           breathless from biking,
                    wild boy me.

“O, don’t you know,”
           chided she.
“You child, you – no Anthony!
           But you can call me
                    Cleopatra.”

I brought her tulips
           in the winter.
She told me “No!
           Flowers have a season.
                    These are Spring.”

All excitement, I
           entered her life.
Falling over to embrace
           her rules, I gave
                    her winter. A tangerine.

She taught me
           pain is good.
Startled, I cried.
           I did not know
                    tears were clean.

But tears were no balm
           I could give her.
She was waterproofed
           and walked hatless
                    in the rain.

I’d spin her tight-twirled.
           “Stop, fool,” she’d howl, anger
spitting from her tangled hair, her brow.
           “Boy, don’t you know?
                    Know strength is delicate!”

And when my arms were lost
           tender around her,
she would cry, “hold me, hold me,
           O, man yourself, boy”, she’d say,
                    “or I will fly away!”

And so she did one day.
           She broke the earth
with age or rage, I guess,
           and my heart. It was winter.
                    The earth was cold.

I brought flowers
           to her grave.
I would have brought
           her roses, but
                    tulips were all I had.

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