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Bottle Trees

Poetry | Spring 2022

His grandmother passed away two months ago.

On her death bed, she asked him to take care of

The bottle trees she’d planted in their yard.

They faced the woods near their home and

At sunset, they danced in the playful breeze,

Their chiming song that of mischievous children.

He replaces the broken bottles, carefully picking

Them up and setting them in my folded button-up.

They are shatters of the rainbow: robust reds,

Ombre oranges, youthful yellows, garden greens,

Bright blues, intriguing indigos, and vivid violets.

He holds up a cobalt blue bottle to the noon sky,

The light glinting off its surface, the shadow falling

Over the contours of his face. He looks beautiful here,

Framed in this gathering of poor man’s stained glass.

I imagine us creating a mosaic with the glass shards,

This burgeoning love the glue that binds them all.

He tells me that they ward off evil; haints is what

His grandmother called them. Later, I will see

An evil eye charm and think of him, the deep blue

Of the jewel entrancing my soul like he once did.

Some Sundays after worship, I come home with him

And we sit in the grove beneath the refracted Sun,

Still in our Sunday best. We will take old Bibles–

Ones we found in thrift stores, ones in forgotten

Church storerooms, ones collecting dust in the corners

Of our houses–and gently nudge out the loose pages.

We are making talismans, another pastime that he shared

With his grandmother. It has now become our own.

I will pass him Kings and he will pass me Proverbs

And I will feel the fleeting warmth of his touch.

Later, I will keep the sack with Psalm 37 that he gave me

Around my neck and imagine that he is still with me,

Shimmering like the glass strewn beneath 

His grandmother’s favorite bottle tree, the one he took

The utmost care of in the latter days of her passing.

I will see the split sunlight fall across his face

And my soul will ache with the broken memory of him.