Even without the weatherman’s warning,
we knew the days were numbered.
The chill flew in on the wings of the geese
and drove us out to tend the land.
A tiny glove, worn happily backwards,
grabbed the rake alongside mine.
Mama, Mama, I want to help.
Ripping out the dead tomatoes,
gathering up the fallen branches,
carrying wilting treats to the chickens:
he was tireless until we reached the zinnias
which, despite a frost, had refused to die.
Dainty crystals painted each folded petal:
still defiantly vibrant, defiantly alive.
I reached for the shears but
he threw out his hands. No, mama, no.
They can’t die. I still love them.
and how do you teach a child of death?
That we give our hearts so freely to beings
we will one day lay in the ground?
That the earth holds her living things so loosely
and always drops them on the altar of hope.
For a seed to grow, a flower must die.
For a field to thrive, a fire must purge.
For my soul to see the face of God,
I must let Him lay me down to sleep.
But my precious boy is only seven
and the cycles of life are far too immense
to fit in his pocket. He simply knows
that he loves a zinnia
with crimson petals and an icy stem.
He hands me the shears in resignation –
or trust? –
and slips the fallen bloom in his pocket.
Cover image by Isaac Chou