My Grandmother In Her Rose Garden
Betsy Holleman Burke
New Dawn roses tumble around the arbor
blush-pink flowers tangle themselves. Reach
for morning sun, perfume the air with sweetness.
Mama Chris wears a print house dress
tattered straw hat, rimless glasses.
She smiles at her world, designed
one hybrid tea at a time.
Plants stand in neat rows, labeled
by date, Latin name, provenance.
She rests on a shaded wicker bench,
apple basket full of clippers by her side.
She snips her namesake rose,
cream with a yellow edge, orange center.
The skeletal leaves fall, covered with black spots.
She shakes her head, studies the damage,
knows the disease. Tiny green aphids crawl
across her swollen knuckles. A mosquito
whines in her ear. She mops her face
with a lace handkerchief,
pulls open her top buttons.
The sun is high, bench no longer
in shade. Ruined leaves lie crumbled
in her hands. Red welts cover her wrists.
Her dress is soaked through,
unladylike she knows.
Maybe family stopped by
left without finding her
but no bang of the screen door
no one calling her name.
The copper window screens are blank,
a porch light is on.
She will wait until sunset.