July, and the harebells are passing, the red columbine
in her spurs and golden tassles, geraniums of lavender
delicately petalled, frail as insect dimples on the lake.
Dogwood’s small blossoms curb the trail like children
sitting, their faces resting on their knees. I think of you
here, so far from gardens, at the lake of your name,
among these brief flowers-not one of which is an escape
from the kitchen side of a picket fence. How is your father,
who made, his while married life, such mockery of your mother
elbow-deep in her garden, the world just-that-too-far
from him that he never dared touch her there? Helpless,
Daughter of Useless, he called you two as you turned the earth
alone together, evening with its carriage of dark climbing
the horizon in the cooling air. Idleness, he snorted,
the Devil’s Work. Come in. On the trail today lay
scat, grizzly, still warm, red with the undigested flesh of salmon.
And in a trampled bed the half-tom bodies. All up the slick
Chickaloon streambed, gouged fish, heads slashed, eggs
unlaid, unfertilized, and monkshood flattened by the massive claws.
I was afraid, came back sighting over my shoulder,
laid the heavy bolt across the cabin door. And saw tonight
in my mind’s eye the Old Country of such fathers as ours,
framed in the backdoor light, a can in the hand, roaring
out toward their fences, their women. I wish you could send him
here to me to study flowers, for by the time he was a man
he’d lost, too, the boy’s will to learn. And you, his child,
a grandmother now, still chafing under the boom of his voice,
as you cannot leave your cool green porch and join me,
please grow for us what we did when I lived there,
one green box filled with sturdy geraniums, recusant, red.