by Emily McCrary

On top Greenhill,
pocketed in North Carolina mountains—
Pat lived in a marked brick house.
Eighty-three when my parents moved in next door,
and every day she would bring the Mt. Airy Observer
where she had circled in blue ink
the parts about what to plant and when
all based on the stars and cycles.

From her kitchen window,
Pat would watch my father in his garden
pulling perfect rows of cozelle bush zucchinis,
bull nose peppers, brandywine tomatoes;
I imagine her watching him turn soil,
smiling, pitting thick red cherries.

Their home now empty—
all the children grown and gone—
My mother would invite Pat for tea,
and the two sit sipping
on the slick slate patio in the rain, sharing stories.
Pat about missing her husband, my mother about loving hers,
summer vacations at Kittyhawk,
The way it feels to hold your own,
the way it feels when they are gone.
A lonely hill made full by her company.
Gray made green in Springtime.
Daily newspaper deliveries, old books with passages circled,
handwritten notes on birthdays and anniversaries,
purple jars of pickled beets left at the stoop without a word.

Pat died on a Wednesday after a stroke on a Monday.
I think things will change up here on the hill,
my mother said to me on the phone that day,
and it sounded like she read it
in an old book or in a poem.
But I know the way it left her mouth
that she meant it as much as
drive carefully, or, call me when you get there, or
come home for Thanksgiving.

On Thursday, the man from the Parkway Garden Center,
come to make his weekly delivery,
idled in his truck for thirty minutes outside of Pat’s dark house.

My mother wrapped herself in a wool blanket and went to him;
tapped on the window of his pickup truck.
Something isn’t right here
he said, like he had been reading the same book.

—I imagine Pat in her garden alone. Just her peppers
and squash and the way her children say her name.

My mother tugged the blanket around her tighter
and started back to the house. When she turned,
the truck was still idling,
the man sitting silently,
his head laid on the steering wheel.

Emily McCrary is a writer, editor and artist living in Raleigh, North Carolina. Her work has appeared in Outrageous Fortune, Blunderbuss, theNewerYork, The Bicycle Review, among others, and was a runner-up for the 2010 Anthony Abbott Poetry Prize. Follow her work at or on Twitter @emilymccrary.​

Dark Mirror
The Mantis
  • KMc / April 7, 2015

    I have read equally well written poetry, but none any better. The emotions and the imagery are particularly warm and keen. Thank you, Emily.