Next of Kin
The small museum park provides a gently curving path. Rose bushes grow behind a fence that protects them from tourists and baby strollers. They would like it here—my grandmother, mother, and great-aunt. So I gather them on a bench, put my grocery bag to one side, and we sit for a while without speaking. Getting dark early, summer's ending, my mother observes. A breeze finds us, licks the sweat from my forehead along with the wear of memories, flickers through the grey stick-like strands that are all that remain of my hair and absorbing the blessing of a warm breeze, the four of us watch the roses waver. They send out no perfume, but so many things are missing now that we don't comment, and the unscented dusk settles over our laps, around our knees and shoulders. Darkness seems to pause when for some reason I tell them that a woman drowned her two children yesterday, and in the ensuing silence I study my toes and wonder at the mystery of mothers and flowers and summer evenings that seem to move so slowly yet go by like lightning flashes. Oh my oh my, my great-aunt says. Well they're gone now—out of pain--, and the mother here? she asks. Yes, I say. Alive. In prison. Well, not so alive, my grandmother points out in her practical voice; we all know that kids can drive you crazy. Oh no no, my mother says. You are the light of my life. She turns to me for no good reason. What light can I be, I wonder, this soot-worn lamp of me? What light? Yet I allow her thought to pass through me with the evening breeze as from an empty bench I watch the roses wave.
on how to grow