Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

My Mother Wanted It All to Be Beautiful

Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

My Mother Wanted It All to Be Beautiful

Article excerpt

The land was for bunchgrass, for cattle

grazing against the wind-not color, not

contented gazing. She dragged hoses,

cleared and coaxed countless hours

in the patch north of the house that Dad

let her do with what she wanted to

fight the parched air with columbine and

rows of gladiolas, violet-veined irises,

moss roses like secrets blown in from a sea

she'd never seen. By the back door, yellow

and-carmine snapdragons leaned out from

the siding: she showed me how to pinch them

so they'd open like fierce little mouths.

Poppies craned up under the east awning

and peonies along the shadeless south burst

overnight, fireworks flung from tight-fisted,

ant-crawly buds. I didn't know the names

of flowers or directions around the yard

she dug and tended, but I followed smells

and wild gusts that tossed my dress like

a bigger blossom, touched colors she had

brought out of the ground into light that fell

on me as well, though it didn't enter the house

kept dim all summer, cool as possible for

coming in from driving tractor back and forth

across the blur of dusty fields beyond, where

nothing grew vivid like the roses either end

of the clothesline, taunting with velvet

and thorns. …

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