Button Wishes

I held sunlight once
Cupped between my petals
The way little Ally, the preacher’s girl
Held buttons between her fingers
When she came to visit.
And while her daddy cupped his hands in prayer
She came over to me.
I don’t know what she saw in me—
I’d been too long indoors, even then.
But after a moment she slipped one of those buttons,
A yellow one, down between my leaves till
It slid into my water and rested,
Peering out through the glass
At the artificial world of indoors.
“For wishes,” she whispered clumsily.
I suppose she imagined me some wishing well,
And her button a shiny penny.
Silly girl, but sweet.

I liked it, nestling there amongst my stems.
I felt as though I had gained a new eye
And that I could see better by it.
I wonder if Rosa could see better
After the preacher had been here.
He prayed that God might open her eyes,
But I don’t think she was listening. Rosa, it seems,
Closed her eyes a very long time ago.

I heard her moaning in her sleep,
The night before she went.
“No, Robert, no!” she cried.
All I could see, as I listened,
Was the gardener coming at me,
Not with his usual watering can,
But with scissors.
I felt again the pain of being cut off.
I think that Rosa was cut off too,
A long time ago.

It would be false
To say I didn’t wither at first,
Bitter and in pain.
But when, at last, they put me in water,
And I saw all the sad faces around me—
Rosa with her stretched and wrinkled frown lines,
The nurses, rushing about on the near side of exhaustion,
And the doctor, always looking grim, even when she wore a smile—
I could not remain sorrowful and wilted.
What would be my point?
How can anyone smile when a flower is frowning?

I don’t think Rosa ever learned this.
She never learned to stand tall
And watch the world with interest,
Even when you hurt inside,
When you know you are dying.
That’s why there was only the preacher
To bid farewell, and only me
To see her off.

I don’t know if her eyes were opened,
Right at the very end,
But I think she saw me for the first time.
“Who sent those flowers?” she asked.
I swear my yellow button jumped
At her words, and my stem shivered.
A nurse stopped and read my note,
Hidden as it was, between two tiny
Folds of paper. “Your brother,” she said.

“Tell him,” said Rosa, and paused,
As if the words hurt in her mouth.
“Tell him thank you.”
The nurse nodded absentmindedly.
“No, you must,
You must tell him! It’s very important.
He doesn’t know, you see.”

Rosa stopped living not long after
And I’ll soon begin to rot.
I had hoped I might decay
Over her grave, but the nurse
Dumped me in the waste basket
With a sad smile.
I hope she remembers.

I hope she remembers
For Rosa,
For smiling flowers,
And little button wishes.

The End

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