Last winter he planted bulbs
with his own trembling hands,
coaxing one last year’s ransom of color
from the marrow of brooding soil.
Blue fingers pressed papery brown
tulip bulbs among twisting worms
the color of the quick beneath his nails.
When the tulips began to bloom
in their gravelly beds at home,
he wept in his hospital bed.
As petals splayed and black hearts
gave themselves up to the sun,
he opened to the vast center of nights alone.
I wanted to fill his fading blood with glory
the way April sun cuts through clouds
to set petals on fire.
When I brought him home they sang at him,
wind-tattered red flags grown from sparks of prayer.
What he planted attended him
as he stepped toward his deathbed.
Marika Thompson lives in Seattle and ruminates on the bounds of duty,
the width of joy, and the permeability of fate, while cultivating a hearty
appreciation for the absurd. Grateful acknowledgments for first publications
made to Austen Press for “AIDS Sestina” and “Praise for Fire” in Birth
of a Notion; The Bloomsberry Review for “Blueberry Picking”; and The Open
Bone for “Wings.”