When she could not have a garden,
Mom grew fourth story balcony
geraniums. Wrought-iron railing
framed flood plains beyond
the medieval Italian town
where ocean rose at the end
of a cypress-lined road.
She scanned the horizon
for Kansas, a constant place
where roses would grow.
The Plains returned to her
when long-distance phone calls
could not replace the only child,
forced to come home and care
for parents who had driven her away.
Now she raises roses like children,
cups thin-veined blossoms
between small hands, never
lets one wilt on a thorny branch,
keeps them vased in the kitchen.
Their spectral fragrance
lets her forget that, once, she escaped.
Like a priest hidden in his confessional,
he waits. Stunned out of my morning reverie,
I see the blue lights flashing and pull over.
“I have you going 32 in a 25”, he says.
Forgive me Father for I have sinned,
sinned because I let out the clutch
so gravity could carry me downhill;
sinned because I sang along with the radio
as Bob Dylan earnestly made the case for Medgar Evers.
“I apologize”, I reply, handing over the requisite documents.
As I wait for my verdict, I don’t dare
open the library book I just picked up,
go through the pile of mail in the passenger seat,
or, God forbid, jot down a poem.
I wait, penitent. After what seems like a century,
he approaches my car window.
“I’m going to give you a warning this time ma’am”.
When did I become a ma’am? It must be atonement for my sins.
“Thank you.” I drive away, wishing I had not thanked him.