Giving and Receiving
by Elizabeth Southwood
(San Mateo County Commission on Aging Poetry Contest,
free verse, 2nd place 4/26/99)
She coveted pink pelargoniums
like those she saw climbing
on the symmetrical cypress tree
by the splintered rail fence
round her neighbor’s garden.
He was kneeling, weeding one day,
snowy white hair blowing and gleaming,
while a blackbird choir sang in the tree above him.
She told him how she’d searched for pink.
He snapped off a leafy, blossoming stem,
and gave it to her
with a gardener’s generosity.
She broke it into pieces
which she rooted in a water glass,
then planted beside a sun-warmed trellis.
Soon she had a fall of flowers,
scrubbed blue sky above,
rain-greened grass below,
a mecca for whirring hummingbirds.
One winter night of record cold,
his ivy pelargonium froze,
shriveled on his cypress tree
in its shaded corner.
Hers survived, continued healthy.
She rooted robust stems for him,
placed them inside his garden gate.
Now pink flowers once again
nod in the western breeze
and cascade down the side
of the cypress tree like a breaking wave,
within view of her sunny, blossom-covered trellis.