Gladiolas like Lipsticks on my Grandmother’s Dressing Table

Even now when I wander through the farmers’ market,
waist deep in spears thick as fingers,
leaning like summer grass in their plastic buckets,
the colors primary, vegetable,

and I choose my own three or four
in graduated tints of pink
like lipsticks on my grandmother’s dressing table,
each worn to a half moon fitting her lower lip,

and I carry them wrapped in paper
damp stem bottoms porous as cheesecloth pressing
moistly into my shirt,

and all week I watch the flutes open
along the stems like the pipes of a church organ
at the end of Amazing Grace,

or touch in passing
their shrimp-curled buds,

I still see them at her funeral
fanning heavenward and later tilting
top heavy in Styrofoam vases beside the open grave,
fluttering with ribbons embossed in gold “Beloved”

how my father’s body folded as he turned and walked away.


Lisa Rhoades
from her book Strange Gravity
Bright Hill Press 2004

reprinted with permission of the poet

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