Like Flowers in May
My mother’s friend is dying, cancer behind the eye. Her children, twenty-two and twenty-five, have felt it spread—liver, lungs—the cure now in tiger lilies, orange hands alive, open on the counter, next to the coffee pot, and bright, too, but fleeting, like the glance the daughter gives her brother—please, not on Mother’s Day.
There’s no chance? asks my father. He wants to ease that other memory, his friend, Sykes, hair like an open flame the war extinguished.
She can’t even lift the coffee jar, my mother says, the smallest size.
I’ve called to check on my gift, sent at the last minute from too far, am trying to think of something wise when my father says, Remember the time Sykes swallowed that gold fish?
On your dare, says my mother, and we are laughing, then, bright and brittle, our tiger lily prayer, our open-handed plea.