Our mother prowled the yard, winding wires around bare
stems of rose bushes, attaching Woolworth's plastic roses—
her flowered house dress puffed out full,
hair lifting like flames. I watched, embarrassed
by how tacky, how pathetic
but it had been a bad spring all around
what with Dad's drinking and with nothing
blooming, and from where I stood
I had to admit they looked pretty. The distance
between shame and pride is so mutable we use
both words for the same thing:
She has no shame. She has no pride.
Can this be true? By my calculation over forty
thousand hours have passed since that moment
and still I see her and the bell of that dress,
not a scrim in sight, just sheets snapping
on the line behind her, weeds shivering at her ankles.
And the way she moved, the way she went at it
—a driven thing—another of the countless gestures
she would subsume in silence, a look
in the eye we all knew meant: Say nothing.
And when she sank away into the heap of mystery
books on the couch, a theater of colors in the window
behind her—the strange brilliance and juxtaposition
of fake and real—I began to believe in hope
as something that could be invented
even under dire skies, even when wind
sliced around thorns and we waited
for the phone to ring, and for spring
to become spring.