When Lilacs

(from A Field Guide to the Heavens)

The pine fence rotted and collapsed,
and then there was nothing between us
and the abandoned lot of the fish-
packing company, its wild outbuildings,
the forges and pumps, the truck barn,
the coopery, the workshops, silent
and weedgrown, and the counting-house,
ivy-choked and gone to pigeons and
feral cats─with the lilac tree, stooped
with blossoms, and my mother stealing
among them like a ragged queen, snipping
and gathering, filling milkbottles with
the nodding clusters: she would choke
the house’s sorrows with the lilacs
in the kitchen with its pinched windows,
on the sills and shelves and sinkboard,
on the red round table and the stove’s back,
and lilac water in the vases and jars─
and in every cluttered room, we, who
tilled no gardens and tended nothing
but the tedious rosary of one day at a time,
suddenly rolling among the crowns
of flowers, breathing whatever fever
it was that sweetened the air for that
one time, the time the dead fence crumbled
and nothing stood between us
and the rich swollen purses of the lilacs.

 

 

 

More Poems from A Field Guide to the Heavens:

February
Kapital
The Tree
Fevereiro
Kapital (Portuguese)