by Andi Reed
I can’t remember a time that you weren’t stationed in the bay window. Small stained-glass baubles hung above you. Your limbs were scrawny and twisted – bare. What leaves you had were at the top – reaching for the rays of sun that penetrated the dirty windows. Your leaves were sparse, but deep green and large. The five leaves meeting at a point in the middle where the stem – straight – reached down 45 degrees to meet the limb.
You were once young and full and eager to grow – a schefflera in all its glory. You came to our family in the worst way – condolences on the loss of your son. It was thirty years ago – maybe more. It’s remarkable that you survived the nicotine-tainted air, the lack of water, the complete lack of attention. I’m sure she never thought to water you once she could no longer see – you were only a blur. Except that you reminded her of her third son – the first child she lost. So maybe the memory of you lived in her mind, and she did give you a drink occasionally. Or perhaps one of the cousins was told to water you or – better yet – felt bad that you were parched.
You had an impressive will to live. Dried up stems and leaves littered the dirt of your pot, but you continued to stand. You were bent, but not broken – much like all of us in this family. It’s fortunate for you that an aunt explained your history to me. Without that, you may have ended up in the dumpster next to the broken lamp and torn pillows. Instead, I called Dad and asked if he would assume responsibility for you who she loved in place of her boy.
And when she was no longer here, when the house was empty, before Dad showed up, you managed to hang on. You would have liked to move with her, to brighten up her room at the nursing home. But you had no way to let her know. You remained in the house, without the sounds of basketball or hockey or baseball. Without the bells and whistles of her games on Pogo.com – at full volume. Without the cat to dig in your dirt or chew on your leaves. You remained to keep watch through the bay window.
Forgotten, unwatered, until her oldest son dislodged you, jostled you, placed you carefully on the floor of his truck. Once more transplanted though not to a new pot. This time from Indiana to Colorado to be reunited with Maggie, the cat. Who joyfully chewed your leaves once more, recognizing the bitterness and aftertaste of nicotine that were so unmistakably you, so reminiscent of an earlier life when she would be pet by bony hands covered with paper-thin skin. Displaced survivors of a house that was once home to a family of eight – a cat and you, the schefflera.
All that was left of you in the house on Madison street, a ring – brown, the wood slightly raised from years of water overflowed – was sanded and painted over. Erasing you as completely as the tears she couldn’t shed.
Bio: Andi Reed has done a lot of writing in her professional life, but has only recently started exploring creative writing. This poem was written in response to an exercise for a class. She lives in Poulsbo, Washington with her husband, dog and kitten.
The Old Woman and Her Peacocks
by Kim Hazelwood Haley
Years of planning, experimenting.
Drinking in the direction of the April sky nectar
Dabbling like a painter
On a large canvas with no dimensions,
Planting this, scattering that.
A kingdom of altheas and lilac bushes,
A dynasty of day lilies and delphiniums
Grapes and gourds, vines and trellises.
Potato mounds and neighboring hills of beets,
Squeezing in some squash.
Oh, if this old, red dirt Earth could yammer.
What a long-winded history of generations found here.
Talking a blue streak about love and lack
Of prosperity and death,
School, marriage, births,
At a time it was largely frowned upon.
But this sacred Eden!
Such euphoria of lush springs and cornucopian summers,
No place on Earth could possibly compare.
But winter forced the old woman indoors,
Where she manufactured a jungle of African violets,
Where ivy leaves and sweet potato vines curled in every possible cranny.
Where dog-eared seed catalogs sprawled dreamily on antique davenports,
Because the idea of being bereft of plant life was too lonely and absurd.
Brought a drought and terrible brush fire!
Heartache at dawn, little Eden incinerated!
Years of cultivation gone.
Everything money couldn’t possibly replace.
Like losing children over a cliff and down a river never recovered.
The clock hands surely frozen.
Like a Dust Bowl Depression photo.
Last note of a melody.
Oh, but splendorous brilliancy,
Revolution of the sun!
A tiny, purple wildflower
Spiraled sprouts from a rebel grass line,
Much to the wonderment of the old woman,
Forgotten plant promises,
From obliterated species,
Popped in to say, “Hello, it’s okay.”
Infinite faith followed.
One morning the old woman woke up to find
A gift basket of exotic teas,
A shawl and gardening gloves,
Gloriously displayed upon her unscarred picnic table.
A growing smile.
Who was this kind stranger?
Maybe more than one.
Speculated towards the distant hills of houses,
Underneath the table,
A box with little holes.
A peeping sound,
A tiny thing, two things.
And all that next year,
With swelling feelings of royalty,
The old woman conducted an orchestra,
Bivouacked from a championed chair
In the midst of new growth,
Watching her beautiful birds
Fan their fine feathered souls,
Strutting astir a summer’s day,
Where a hopeful hula hoop of joy
Surprised the old woman
More than the memory of glossy youth and first loves,
Or the special ordered
Forest Thunbergia gardenias.
She had named the proud,
Jasmine and Jerry~
As the cat grew respectful,
Falling back in the silly shadows of dusk,
While the old woman,
Their lady queenship-
Remained bowled over by the show.
Bio: Kim Hazelwood Haley has edited The Green Silk Journal since 2005, with great honor. One of her poems will be included in the upcoming Earth Poetry Anthology by Foothills Publishing. Her poetry has appeared in When Women Awaken (2016) as well as Green Silk and others featuring short stories. Her poem, A Geisha in Winter won third place in a poetry contest, and she is also the author of CoyoteBat! She is currently working on a long overdue collection of poetry. Lately, she has been performing as a singer-musician with her husband in their duo, Cats With Matches in and around the Shenandoah Valley.