Marigolds

There comes a day when Daddy's steps
No longer cross the green.
He holds my hand,
Platitudes streaming from his mouth in rivulets,
Guiding me down the walkway
To the side entrance.

The overhead light flickers.
"Why don't we just cut through the grass like always, Daddy?"
His grip tightens for a moment--
loosens,
"The grass will get hurt if you do that.
Your weight will crush all those little blades, yeah?"
I didn't understand, but I followed:
"Okay."

The house is quieter with only the two of us.
I notice things I haven't before:
The kitchen sink always leaks,
There's a pile of sand underneath the parlor rug, and
Daddy stops talking with his hands.

"Come get breakfast, Melanie."
His hands rest on the creaky banister.
"Make sure to water your bean plant before going to bed, Melanie."
His hands stay motionless at his sides.
"Here, let's get this dinner in the oven before Mommy gets home-"
His fingers twitch-- a spasm of life-- then still in remembrance.
He burns dinner.

I think Daddy avoids the green
So he doesn't have to look at Mommy's marigolds,
Decaying slowly by the front door.
I think Daddy avoids his hands
Because he can’t imagine Mommy’s hands
Not in his.

One day, I leave some of Mommy's gardening books on the counter.
Maybe Daddy forgot how to take care of them,
like he is forgetting to take care of himself.
The next day, the books are gone.
So are the marigolds.

When Daddy picks me up, he drops my hand and
tromps all over the raggedy green--
"Grass be damned!"
And throws open the front door,
Hands splayed wide,
Alive.
The sun cuts his figure into a crisp shadow,
And dust particles tilt slowly in the doorway,
scintillating.

The sunset engulfs the lawn in red.
As I look down at the crushed blades left in his wake,
Daddy brings a hand to his heart.

He sighs, and

The grass bleeds.





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