The Lillies


When I learned I might have cancer,

I bought fifteen white lilies. Easter was gone:

the trumpets were wilted, plants crooked with roots

bound in pots. I dug them into the garden,

knowing they would not bloom for another year.

All summer, the stalks stood like ramshackle posts

while I waited for results. By autumn, the stalks

had flopped down. More biopsies, laser incisions,

the cancer in my tongue a sprawling mass. Outside,

the earth remained bare, rhizomes shrunken

below the frost line. Spring shoots appeared

in bright green skins, and lilies bloomed

in July, their waxed trumpets pure white,

dusting gold pollen to the ground.

This year,

tripled in number, they are popping up again. I wait,

a ceremony, for the lilies to open, for the serpentine length

of the garden to bloom in the shape of my tongue’s scar,

a white path with one end leading into brilliant air,

the other down the throat’s canyon, black

and unforgiving. I try to imagine

what could grow in such darkness. I am waiting

for the lilies to open.


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