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Rhododendrons

The first crime I ever committed was breaking and entering
Even though the window was unlocked and it only broke my heart;
My family had lived in that house for over fifty years
Until my uncle ran out of money;
He couldn’t afford to pay for his wife and kids
Along with the ghosts of our past
That still walked the halls whispering the word remember;
But the bank didn’t care how many generations began there
Or how many peoples hearts were still in the crumbling brick wall;
They made their way in, throwing open the shutters of our pride,
Putting pad locks on the doors of our dignity,
Wondering how much money they could get for our memories
And the place where he took his last breaths
And claiming everything from my grandfathers terrible paint job
To the marks on the doorway that recorded my height;
I have grown much taller since the pen cut the wooden frame
And it bled black numbers and my name
But I still cant measure up to the expectations of the sky

That very same day we visited my grandfathers grave;
He joined the navy for four years to get money to buy food
And then never spoke of it again,
And I cant help but wonder what kind of hell he found there
Or why our country thinks that a little colored piece of cloth
Stuck into the dirt next to his tombstone
Would ever be enough to make up for the fact
That ten years later he still woke my grandmother with his screams;
And at his funeral a man in uniform
Gave me the flag folded up behind the glass of a shiny new case
Too similar to the box that held his remains
And seemed to think that it was enough,
That my patriotic pride could fill the holes he left
In what used to be my wholes;
It never even came close

And on that day in the cemetery
My grandmother told me she still talked to him sometimes
And asked me if it was crazy,
I wanted to tell her that parts of me had been dead for years
And plenty of people still talked to me,
But I could see his dying breath beating against her lungs
So I told her that I still talk to him too,
We are both still waiting for an answer that will never come;
And she stood looking down at his picture carved in stone
Leaning against the broken flower box
That had been there with him since the very first day,
The sides had split open,
Spilling the soil like guts spread out on the grass
And I couldn’t help but wonder if maybe the dirt wanted to die,
If the roots digging into it felt like knives,
Or if it just couldn’t bare sitting there for years
Wondering why no one ever told it I miss you
But I couldn’t think of a name to put on the tombstone,
So I let my mother throw it in the woods
And replace it with a sturdy pot full of dirt that would never be free

Then the memories hit me like he never did;
Memories of a man as tough as nails
That would pretend to be sleeping as a little girl
Painted his toenails bright orange for the millionth time,
Of a man that was dying
But still found the energy to wheel himself down four floors
To the hospital gift shop and buy me a toy to hold
For when he would be gone and unable hug me any more,
But someone once told me to hide my grief behind my pride
And I didn’t want my already broken family to see me cry,
So I went searching for a ghost that didn’t know my name;
I found too many graves inscribed with just the word baby,
Dozens of children that didn’t live long enough to get a name
And I wondered what word their mothers screamed at night,
And In the back corner I found the biggest rhododendron bush
That I have ever seen,
And hidden in the center of it was a tombstone;
The last person that was buried there died sixty years ago,
And I wondered who planted the bush
And if they knew how much it would eventually grow,
So when I die I want someone to plant rhododendrons,
Let the roots grow through the soil and into my chest;
I want my death to become life again,
Its the most beautiful poem I will ever have a part in





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