by Laura Sobbott Ross

Her old house, cypress, the color of ash,
grew each summer, rippling wildly in zinnias—

a careless beauty I coveted in the heat,
while she boiled seasons into suppers—

the crayfish my brothers carried in
from creek beds, the corn, beans, potatoes.

Whatever never broke in her must have
loved the fertile river-swept earth, must have

stood with a face like a fist, a taunt
square on the jaw of my grandfather’s rages.

That thicket pissed from a salve of dust and
spit, grew into flowers so bright they scorched

my memory; flaming hues of magenta, red,
gold, and tangerine too hot for crayon wax.

Not another garden meant to wring the silk
from her skin, it seeded without the luster

of a kind sun, or showers that reeked of
stillness, hissing against those feral petals.

Nothing ever broken off and shining at the lip
of a vase, but how they spread, ache after ache,

year into year. I could never get my zinnias
to grow like hers, could never find the kind

that required no tenderness. Those buds
of mine coddled into matchsticks—

each dormant blaze in its clay pot,
a flare too soft to spark with flint.

Laura Sobbott Ross’s poetry has been nominated twice for a Pushcart Prize and appears in the Valparaiso Poetry Review, Florida Review, Columbia Review, Calyx, Natural Bridge, Tar River Poetry, Cold Mountain Review and many others. Her chapbook, A Tiny Hunger, won a statewide contest from YellowJacket Press. She lives in Mount Dora, Florida. Read her previously published poems in Deep South here

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