My mother comes back
as the mock orange’s white blossoms with yellow anthers, their faint
that the scant breeze blows to me. It’s flowering for the first time.
I sink my hands
into the dirt, get closer to the tap root of the huge dying elm
which spreads its black limbs
over me against blue sky in such eloquent gestures of grief
that I remain
kneeling in the flowerbed, weeding, staring up. Wisteria waits
in a black plastic
gallon bucket to be planted. My dead mother loved
the color of wisteria.
The white label calls it “wisteria frutescens—
and says its vines will grow twenty to thirty feet. I’m building it
two treated 4×4 posts anchored in concrete, set twelve feet apart
and strung with horizontal
galvanized steel cable. I’ll train the wisteria’s wrought-iron vines
to climb and twine
through these staves, to become a sprawling G clef that will flower
into late spring’s
lavender notes, cross-pollinated by bees, its sound and scent carrying far
beyond our backyard.
On the harp strings of the trellis, it will blossom again and again into the one
illuminated letter of being.
—Donald Platt (Tippecanoe County)
This poem first appeared in Shenandoah.
Photo by Katharine Roesner
Donald Platt is the author of six volumes of poetry, most recently Man Praying (Parlor Press, 2017) and Tornadoesque (CavanKerry Press, 2016). His poems have appeared in many journals, including The New Republic, Nation, American Poetry Review, Paris Review, Poetry, Kenyon Review, Georgia Review, Iowa Review, Southwest Review, and Southern Review, as well as in The Best American Poetry 2000, 2006, and 2015. He is a recipient of two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and three Pushcart Prizes. He is a professor in Purdue University’s English Department and MFA Program.
Poetry Prompt: Activity Connecting You to a Loved One
What activity connects you to someone you loved who is now deceased or living far away? It might be caring for a specific plant, playing a particular sport, fixing a certain dish. Write a poem that describes your activity and serves as a tribute to the person you miss.
Indiana Humanities is celebrating National Poetry Month by sharing a poem and prompt every day in April. Indiana Poet Laureate Shari Wagner selected these poems and wrote the prompts.