Perhaps my Grandmother said: I’m sorry for this
as she sprayed the poor Messiah’s head with leftover
water she used to mist violets with—back when
they blossomed around his feet as if each bronze toe,
frigid & smooth to the touch, acted as mentor to their
seedlings’ growth. But, as always, Winter’s breath
shriveled the petals into wrinkled skin: cringed & cracked
like the litter of a squirrel’s scavenge. In time she ended
up calling the wilted residue fallen angel’s wings, collected
them in old jelly jars, placed those hovels on maple windowsills
for the light of God to claim. Yet, after ten years or so
of congregation, Grandma just gave up on gardening
like she did cigarettes & care for a household all her own.
She pretended they didn’t exist. Seed never spilled, sod
unsoiled by human hands, & all was well on that end.
Her lips, chapped by hot air, however, used to whisper
children’s names at night—Mahal, Fema, Wewel—
& I’d always be the one who nudged the bruised skin
of her shoulder till she twisted, turned, showed
the bloodshot eyes that barely stood out amongst
the glaring of saints tacked to drywall—gently, of course.
Then, I’d tell her: Please, keep it down. I’ve got school in the morning.
Her head would droop the same way it does at her sewing machine
where she’d patch together the broken seams of shrunken
sweaters, ripped jeans, tattered intimates. She never did
like wasting anything before its time—like the trowel
her son gave as a welcoming present. Once used to break up
the crabgrass stationed close to our patio, the aluminum
blade dulled the way all sharp things must & the oak handle
grew unsteady, arthritic as Grandma’s knees before genuflection.
So it sat, cob-webbed several times over, on a shelf in our
garage until my father threatened to throw it away as he did all
our unnecessary things. No. Another use had to be found.
The old clothes wiped up spills off the hardwood, the fallen
angel’s wings fertilized the land. She searched around
the outskirts of home &, as if out of those Gospels consumed
daily in her room, she came upon Jesus with his arms in perpetual
embrace. Her spirit answered his call before she saw God’s
corporeal self stained with the alabaster remains of berries,
grains, & seeds. Her pictures tell the rest: trusty tool in hand,
she scraped the foul from the tuft atop his head, the curve of his
neck, the tunic on his chest, into the hollow of a dustpan with
fractured handle. She disposed the waste into a musk-filled
garbage can & continued this tradition afternoon after
afternoon until last week—when she went back home
to watch men like me reuse their own rusted shovels.
They planted one of her seeds where, now, moss may grow.