Snow flurries chill my garden,
a powdered-sugar dusting
on winter blooms
and green winter rye.
I warm my hands
before an electric fire
while a candle’s burning-wood
scent fills the room.
Your excuse, I remember,
when you first set fire
to the prairie grass behind our home
was based on truth.
Our handmade mower
with tricycle wheels had released
its last gray-black breath
through duct tape and baling wire.
There was no way to fix it,
and we couldn’t have a yard
growing out of control,
So from a garden hose,
I filled a bucket and ran ahead
of the angry crawl, kicking my feet,
warning the mice, rabbits, and snakes.
I drenched coneflowers, milkweed,
and larkspur to save the blooms
in the right place at the wrong time,
but only a few survived.
My electric fireplace grows too hot.
I blow out the candle and walk outside.
Snowflakes dissolve on my flesh,
melting away the memory’s heat.
Was destruction the only way?
What had the prairie done wrong?
Nothing, I answer the red-faced child.
My grandmother’s ashes hid in the trunk
of my late Aunt’s impounded car,
a sad but predictable end to their story.
They both sought the freedom of the road.
Only a nursing home rooted them in place.
Grandma drove my sister, cousin, and me
around town when we were young. She
tapped the car pedals to the rhythm on the
radio, a firm note hurled us forward before
“buckle up—it’s the law” was a law.
We didn’t understand her body’s betrayal.
Generations before her had kept hidden the
reason, giving us a chance at life. Her doctors
brought to light the cruelty that had taken
her father, two brothers, and a sister before her.
Huntington’s, a hidden poison deeper than
childhood, descending through our family tree.
The doctors explained to us its heredity.
Eeny, meeny, miney, mo. Fifty percent
of us will always go.
None of us tested. What did it matter?
My sister and cousin were already mothers,
and I lacked the strength to know of a
finality out of my control. Besides, a test
wouldn’t stop us from living.
I cried the day my Aunt’s body refused a
gentle hug and confusion settled her mind
on taking to the road. The thorns of guilt
stung my relief that my mother’s hands
remained as calm as morning snow.
Then my cousin who giggled with me in the
back seat of grandmother’s freedom
lost hers sooner than her mother. Doctors say
the disease progresses that way. Her two children
are not yet twenty. I’m unsure if they know
the end of their story.