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The rosebushes were landing places
for the windless flight of bees,
arched backs weighted on a petal
and antennae probing.
I wanted to startle them out of their business
and pet their striped bodies
when I should have been with you
crouching over the strawberry patch
and pulling back leaves.

You were proud of your strawberries
and taught me to search for surface imperfections.
Your fingers closed on the smaller berries,
speckled green at the base
and set them in the shade of the vine.

I would like to say I saved the thing you gave me,
a ballerina whose crown was  broken in the first week
and pajamas three sizes too big.
I see you in your alligator monogrammed tee-shirts
watering the lawn you insisted on mowing.
The kids are too lazy, too slow, too small
and when your car pulled up in the driveway–
“Grandpa’s here!”  We ran–
straight out the back door.
When we were big enough to push the lawn mower
you packed your machine and sat in the kitchen
for one last beer, then asked for refills.

Sometimes I hear the groan of the swing set
you put up for us, and our shouts
as we jumped from a bar as high as the garage,
careful not to let you catch us.
Then your voice in the hospital:  Does everyone have a house?
Is everyone okay?
Behind me, ice blocks gather in the street,
leaving puddles the boys of your generation splashed in.
Now the ice trucks are gone, as are the
broad and generous oaks that crowded your street.
I look for footholds in your backyard
and reach for the low hanging branches,
the heaviness of your stooping.

Robin Dawn Hudechek

First appeared in Incidental Buildings and Accidental Beauty: An Anthology of Orange County/ Long Beach Poets, 2001,  published by Tebot Bach.