MAYDAY, MAYDAY

Rebecca Weiner Tompkins

The white rain of petals that fell for a week is done.
What catches now in my hair
are the dried blossoms of the Callery Pear,
startling and crackly, as they float and scatter,
rattling through the trees to the street like
shards of bone sifted in dusty fingers
out of old earth. A young man I know is visiting
his wife’s grave a year after she died
and when he tells me his stories of what
the time has been– “where is your wife now?”
people ask; “dead,” he replies—his recollecting
is what saves me from another sigh for my recent
tiresomely trite grief, the mundane details of my life
which even led me to write: I want to stab myself in the heart
with a knife. It was that simple and stupid
as I woke up every day newly alone.

This morning after, those falling finished flowers,
the papery circles, parchment yellow, are deep
in the gutters and sidewalk gashes.
They’re so turned, so far removed from
the handfuls of fresh ones I once threw into
the night air and tried to run through
as they drifted sweeter than stars or first snow.
I am the only one out this early and surprised
to see a small figure, a woman who seems to be
picking through trash, but is actually
crouching outside the iron gate sweeping up
piles of the stiff petals into a sack.
Later she might sort and sell them
in another part of the city as a special tea, a remedy
for heartbreak, or the slightly different heart-
ache, urging those who long for a cure not to resist
the sharp taste, terrible and familiar, going down.

Ben Courtney

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