All I Wanted


We counted crocuses on the way to school,
white and purple eyelids blinking between roots
of ice, my small hand thin as smoke in your grip. 

We counted them in pairs and triads and strangled
single shoots. Six was the turning point, you’d say,
six was proof the earth could still breathe 

through the black frost in its lungs. Late March, 
my birthday looming, and all I wanted
was for spring to seep back into your skin. 

Oh Mama, forgive me. How could I have known,

the week before your transplant, when I snapped
a picture of a clutch of six crocuses, their yellow
lashes uncurled against a sheet of snow, 
that you’d keep the whole ICU awake, shrieking 

because you were afraid you’d never see
even one of them again? 

Months later, when the marrow
you borrowed from your brother turned
on you, the only thing blooming in the hospice
garden was a strand of irises latched
beneath your window. Six of them.

One for each day you lived. 
Mama, here is what I never told you: 

That last morning I visited, I wrenched open
their blue and purple throats and
snatched out their palsied tongues, 
ground them under my muddy boots.