My house is aglow
with mason jars of marigolds.
Their delicate leaves fan out
like hummingbird wings.
Thick stalks serve as understudies
to the burst of scent and color above.
Their orange, spongy flowers
lean upward toward the light,
dancing center-stage.

Flowers mirror life’s contradictions:
Marigolds—gold for the Virgin Mary
and resurrection, and yet,
a symbol of grief and despair.

My ex-husband did not go to jail
during Marigold season.
No, it was the summer,
the season of Gladioli.
I remember him in pieces:
his chiseled jaw, his full lips,
his reddish-brown Choctaw skin,
his rhythmic gait kindred to a prowl.
I remember the graze of my kiss
across his dusky eyelids,
the comfort of his hand
resting on my forehead as we slept.
I wore his danger, his simmered rebellion
wrapped around me like a cashmere cage.

He and I, tethered by vows,
paced like Rilke’s panther, stunned
and sluggish in a dazed spring.
Then, in Gladioli season,
he climbed into an orange suit
behind a thousand metal bars
to free us,
to free me.

There is a majesty to life,
to all that makes me whole,
and all that breaks me,
like thick snow boots
breaking the crust of winter,
breaking me in half,
like a slender, dry twig.

But, like the marigolds,
I always lean toward the light,
opening my face to the kiss
of each new lover, oblivious
to the garden shears hidden
behind his back.

Marigolds