I see her tearing strips
from a sheet, tying
sweet pea shoots to chicken wire.
Her hair is Asian, wistful,

teased by April wind.
She sings Beautiful, Beautiful
Brown Eyes,
looks up and winks
the way jaunty women did back then.

That fall her blossoms
withered without her.
Grandma took me to the room
of the dead smell.

Propped by pillows, Helen
grinned, shrunken, the bleached
branch of her leg exposed,
naked to the thigh.

On the bedside stand were pills,
Kleenex and a paper cup.
She fumbled with lipstick,
poked in place the last wisps

of her hair, winked and rasped,
Hey there, good-lookin'.
She tried to light a cigarette.
Grandma had to steady

her dangling wrist.
It's a kick, Erm, she wheezed.
Ain't it a kick?
Red stained her yellow teeth.

What became of the maroon
Schwinn, chrome and cream trim,
I got that Christmas? Where's
the grey slush of memory

I tried to ride it in?
From her kitchen,
Grandma studied the sky's
gray sheets fold and fold.

It's Sunday forever, forever July.
Morning is a girl's dress
floating over houses, trees.
I tie my own sweet peas

to chicken wire,
lean forward to water them
and enter a room the color
of hospital broth.

I grew these for you.
Let me fill your cup.
Helen, why are you dying?
Open your eyes. It's me.

Ed Harkness | Mudlark No. 13
Contents | Right Field