Besides confections and gravies, 

            Sweet, crunchy—        

                        Smooth and lumpless,

                        Models of perfections,

            And presents from “Santa”—

            Still into my twenties—

                        Socks and soaps-on-ropes,

            And bitten tongues 

                        Vittles crowding out curses,

            And semi-sweet, stern orders:

                        Keep chopping

                                    Those nuts,

                        Keep sifting

                                    That flour,

                        Keep stirring

                                    That pot,

                                    No, stop.

This was always the season of Gram,

When she shone,

            Herself, the spotlight

                        The spotter couldn’t

                        Keep in frame.


The summer was Grampa’s—

            And the early autumn— 

            All in preparation for Gram’s turn:

            Chop and stack the wood

                        For Gram’s fireplace on Christmas,

            Plant and grow the herbs

                        For Gram’s feasts in November,

            Cultivate the short needle firs

                        For Gram’s wreaths, come Winter,

            Save the fallen pinecones

                        For Gram’s cool-weather crafting,


Move the potted mums to ground,

            Move the planted mums to pots:

                        10-10-10 and epsom’s

                        Moist, but not soaked,

                        Ramping up at St. Patty’s—    

                                    Clover green.


And in-between and all-around, 

            At the intersections,

            Where the seasons met

            And overflowed,

            Was the season of chrysanthemums:

                        A year-long obsession—

                                    Through the semi-dormant spring

                                    When the leaves, lime-verdant,

                                    Spread out across the ground.

                        Through the bright green summer,

                                    With occasional buds and 

                                    Even less occasional blooms

                                                Yawping yellows,


                                                Round reds,


                                                Proud purples,


                                                Willing whites,


                                    Quilled and Pompons and Tobagos


                        Anticipating the handoff.

And in-between and all-around,

            Being sent out

                        From the kitchen,

            Being sent up

                        From the cellar,

            Being sent over

                        From the shed,

                                    And the garden,

                                    And the hearth,

                                    And the tv room,

            To pick the deadheads:

                        “If you want blooms on Thanksgiving,

                        You have to pick those deadheads.”


                        “If you want flowers on Christmas,

                        You have to pick those deadheads.”


                        “Go pick thirty deadheads.”


                        “Go pick a hundred.”


                                                They needed some time:

                                                Together, alone, and with

                                                Precocious me out of sight—


In this currency, the handoff of seasons, 

            From Grampa’s to Gram’s,

                        When Grampa and Gram 

Rest together,

            Now resting, 

                        At the National cemetery,

                        In the memorial wall, 

            The deadheads at home proliferate:

            The mums we’ve picked up over 

                        The years (over the year):

            The mums we’ve watched over and 

                                    Doted on, 

            Champion over poinsettias and roses

                        Important in their own rights,

            Lord over the yards, 

                        Back, front, and sides,

                        And decks and porches:

            In the bounty of hand-picked

                        Deadhead mulches:


The season of mums persists,

            Rounding corners,

            Connecting Grams and Grampas

                        With their buds and blooms

                        With the gardens they planned,

                                    With peats,

                                    With mulches of their

                                    Own makings:

            Connecting Grams and Grampas

                        With the grounds and plots

                        With the families they planned,

                                    With love,

                                    With perennials

                                    They nourished:

            Connecting Grams and Grampas

                        With grams and grampas

                        With restless roots they fed,

                                    With the deadheads 

                                    They counted,

                                    And instigated




            Confections and gardens,

            Living lessons—lessons on living: 

Wrapped, with sharp-mitred,

                                    Tight corners.

                        Sweet, crunchy—        

                        Smooth and lumpless,

                        Models of perfections:

                                    Counted in deadheads,

                                    Passed, timelessly, in a heap

                                    Of tomorrow’s blossoming,

Tireless, pyrotechnics.


 Read more essays, short stories and poetry at


Popular Posts