Even though the frost has barely thawed,
everything must go: the cracked ceramic
flowerpots, wrought iron candelabra, boxes
and boxes of votives; all the garden tools
my grandfather acquired over decades
owning the flower nursery, the rust
of each spade crumbling into gravelly ground;
each of the mossy fountains and vacant birdbaths
and once-upright statues of St. Francis sorted by their worth.
Forget the fresh-cut hydrangea, sunflowers,
delphinium, and roses—they won’t last.
Orchids and palms, though, might make it through
summer, so I rummage through his greenhouse
that collapsed under the weight of a snowstorm,
its colossal exhaust fan weathered, motionless,
its galvanized steel bows and purlins kinked
and severed, some edges tearing the plastic film.
From here, I watch my grandfather disassemble
his workbench, empty shelves from the bottom up
past the brims of storage bins, reaching the top shelf
for a black and white photograph of himself,
only younger, working a wheelbarrow through
flecks of daylight, a slight breeze waving
his hair as if to ask what’re you looking for?
I wonder what he notices in the picture:
forearms flexed, tanned skin tight across his face;
dank soil inside the barrow’s bed, its earthy smell
spreading through the burgeoning garden of his memory—
how he’d wash loam from under the thick of fingernails;
or, perhaps, how it’ll feel to leave, to liquidate
history before the month’s inauspicious end?
What’s next, I want to know, fertilizer?
Still absorbed, he returns a slight nod
to salvage whatever’s left in the greenhouse:
wicker baskets, hoses, and under a ragged blue tarp
the wheelbarrow overturned and tarnished.
And suddenly, I hear a shattering and a resonance
simultaneously, like grating metal under the quake
of an avalanche, or a felled sycamore, all at once
its twigs snapping below a deep tremble.
The barrow topples as I turn toward the sound.
There, beside his workbench, my grandfather’s sprawled
over an emptied toolbox, the picture frame split apart
to expose a discolored film. His eyes open
but dazed, mouth slumped on one side, limbs
wilting like a hyacinth’s in a long drought,
the vessel of its bulb hardly pumping
enough for the axis to absorb, its purple
resolutions faded to a burnt vanilla,
each withering petal soaking
just enough, enough, enough.
Radford Skudrna is an MFA student at the University of Maryland, College Park, where he also teaches. He majored in both Creative Writing and Anthropology/Sociology at Roger Williams University; all the while, he served as Managing Editor of roger, an art & literary magazine. His poetry has recently appeared in The Missing Slate, Bayou Magazine, and Barely South Review.