gardener, he enjoyed planting
poppies in the backyard –
raspberries and tomatoes too, and you sunk
your teeth into their jeweled ruby skin,
enamel glittering with sugared juice.
The day before the war stole him,
the sunset died to a slow ember, burning
cities to the ground. A ladybug landed on
your wrist and he laughed at how it
danced across the soft meat
of your palm. He taught you
how to dig holes into the pulsing heart of the land,
germinating apple seeds and begonias.
“The earth must fall before it rises,” he told you,
eyes sparkling like the raw, pink flesh of a newborn.
“It empties itself so that new life can bloom.”
Before he boarded the plane that carried him off
into thick August blood – the architecture of
foreign cities shrinking to the size of a
cherry pit – he pressed his lips to the rose of your cheek,
hoping you’d realize he was speaking about
more than the land.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.