The Things We Grow
It comes to mind when my niece asks about the dried thing in the pot, what it had been before its spindly end. A portrait Rembrandt Peale made of his brother Rubens holding a geranium—much nicer than this one of mine ever was—warm light shining on brother and plant, asking the eye to choose which is painted with more love. My niece studies the crumbled remains, its container too small not to strain against, left on the back deck, where we’d come to sit. I wonder how long it was yellowing before the frenzied push, the final flourish, seed spilling onto sealed wood. She asks me what I’d grow next if I could. The little ceramic pot, choked on roots, says nothing. I answer, saying I’d grow a stem out of Victorian ladies, upright and firm in their flower code, petals blushing modestly. (Back then, the pink ones meant I choose you.) The leaves I’d make flouncy like tulle ruffles, sewn by mothers for their little ballerinas. Like yours did, when you were a sprout, I tell her. She smiles at my silliness while the ceramic pot sits beside us, embarrassed for having no ruffled leaves.
A little bell peals. She pulls out her phone with the violet case, reads the text aloud. Mom will brt 10 min, she says. We have time to search for the portrait of Rubens on her phone. The image loads the beaming plant, a spectacled face, a look that says what I grow will outshine me. I think of Rembrandt dabbing his brush with no small care, as if to say, you both will.
Angela Sucich holds an M.A. in Literature from the University of Colorado-Boulder and a Ph.D. in Medieval Literature from the University of Washington. She’s published one nonfiction book on the history of a Seattle trade union (Seattle Publishing). More recently, she was named a finalist for the 2020 Francine Ringold Award for the category of poetry.
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