mother says, stabbing starry holes opposite the sky.
I’ve crushed her lavender spray, poured dirt
before the body has been lain. Pretend it’s potpourri,
I offer instead of an apology, grated flower flesh,
salts for the fainted soul, if nothing else. She is mother

– Atlas – at fifteen: what is family but the world?
and faints anyways, calf-knees, cone hat,
wide-rimmed glasses and all. I watch. Her
knees are furled in the soil, and I think her pale thighs
will burn before they turn the color of terracotta clay.
Above the fire pit, passion fruit tendrils quaver
in the strangling midday churn as she points
to her plants, fondly calling each one by its Chinese name.

There are few things heavier than a blue bag of dirt:
geranium pots, sickly lemon leaves in a black garbage bag, a dozen
uprooted weeds clutched close to my mother’s breast, orphan to orphan.


Tiffany Wu is a senior on poetry staff with Helicon. She is fond of music, literature, the history of colors, and long walks, and is on a quest to find the best way to tell a story.