Her Offering

I planted cantaloupe
in my front yard last spring,
a sweet ground cover,

annual among perennials.
One by one before

they could ripen, their skins split,
coral flesh gaping.
I suspected raccoon, opossum,

deer, the heat—not
the Eastern box turtle

plodding through shadowed vines,
snug under its stenciled carapace,
saffron-eyed among chiseled

rinds, spilled seeds,
the raw viscera of loss.

Three years before,
my mother proffered a list
of marriage partners for my father,

for after she passed.
The roll call of candidates

carried on, my mother then
too frail to deliver her lines.
I preserved the spectacle

of my silence, never performed
her part, even as she made

her bow. Today in this garden,
honeyed with carnage, I see
my mother’s kindness, how

she offered herself, the fruit
of her overripe body, untangled

the withering vine of her illness,
fashioned him a sequel,
a shell like a shield etched

with widows’ names. Perhaps
she hoped one would slip

the cover off, crack
open the hull of him,
gather the scattered kernels,

salvage a cantaloupe, roughly
inscribed, before summer’s end.