He followed around the yard while I pruned

a light breeze blowing cooler than the shade

of the red maple he once planted promising

to keep the seedling small, a bonsai, I said

Some bonsai towering above the overgrown

forsythia full of birds twittering and

entreating me to fill the feeder as he

criticized the brand of bird seed bought

Not the Somerset Grain and Feed Store

still selling hay, pitchforks and sundry

to farmers up at dawn tending to cows,

chickens, or acres of sweet Jersey corn

Do you remember you told the family

you managed to go through five years of

college without coming out of the closet

but you meant without taking any math?

Yes, one Christmas, you were buttering corn

at the end of the table, hearing aids

conveniently turned off, salt scattered

like tiny stars on the polished wood

They still don't understand you he

breathed across the back of my neck

noticing my hair much shorter, suddenly

angry, grumbles of thunder getting closer

I'm glad you stopped by trying to

distract him by stacking the red bricks

he once collected for a pathway never

paved, not for his mother nor for me

As minutes became hours, day passed

into dusk with bats hunting mosquitoes

my gardening gloves soggy, my back tired

whispering why did you leave so quickly?

My ghost husband wandered in the direction

of wild grapes and milkweed blossoms to

join my grandmother, my father, the

seven babies lost, other faces I once knew

Then he turned halfway into that tall darkness

answering Watch this while one by one

each being brightened as lightning bugs

encircled their heads weaving crowns of gold


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