The rose bushes are in full bloom
in a frilly abundance that would border on shameless if they weren’t
so beautiful.  If they weren’t so perfectly crafted to make
you sigh, like the bee so drunk with nectar he can’t even fly
straight, but does a kind of airborne stagger.

It will not last, of course.  Tiny stick bugs already cling
to the pale undersides of petals, their microscopic jaws working.
The summer sun will scorch the edges black, and fall
will rust the leaves, the months diminishing
each bush until the day I cut them all down,
stripping away the few rain-soaked buds that lack
the strength to open.

My father, whose body is becoming a stiffening husk
that other hands now bathe and dress,
tells me how at his college in Taiwan the students would gather
in the courtyard every Friday night to play records
borrowed from the American Embassy.

They would set up the record player and the oversized speakers.
They would hand out programs and play Beethoven,
Mozart, Tchaikovsky, and Bach,
all of them perched in silence, their heads tilted with listening.

After the cutting down, Lord, this is what I imagine,
the mercy hoped for in the blade—
my father once again that rapt young man,
every nerve and cell alive and singing.

 

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