After the memorial service
I take one of the ferns we are given
in honor of you, plant biologist,
nine days dead from cancer.
I load it on my back and bike home.
Roxanne, I have come not in black
but on my bike. You'd smile,
open and approving as a sky
I am not inclined to thank today.
Your children are too young
to be without their mother
and too old to not remember her.
I will not be biking by Linden School this week.
At home I put your fern in the glare of my window seat.
Days later I read the instructions,
their reproach in bold purple letters, a shade lover.
There is little shade in my apartment.
I remember walking in with the realtor,
into the room's nuclear sweep and saying,
I'll take it. My first morning there I knew
I'd made a mistake: I'd never be able to sleep
past eight, and hiding in a cocoon
of pizza, Netflix, and winter
was no longer an option.
Already I've nearly killed it, your fern,
the only living thing in my apartment
besides me. It's a big step, me and your fern,
the therapist beseeching a lonely 35-year-old academic
to stop thinking about herself already.
Not unlike the home ec assignment of giving eggs
or bags of flour to teenagers who either drop them
or don't, but whatever -- they've given them names
and goofy fond faces, turned the inanimate
into something to lose, or break.
Your fern is not a cat, not a dog, not a child.
Your fern is no mammal. Your fern has no name --
just Roxanne's. Roxanne's fern.
I put your fern on the TV
because I am always looking there,
away from the light. On Sunday I watered it.
Too much? Not enough?
Then I left it alone overnight in my dark kitchen.
Roxanne, I have no idea, not one goddamn clue,
what I am doing here, in charge of your fern.
We need you back for just five minutes
to show me how to care. On my own I do it wrong.
When I talk to your fern I scold it,
Do not fucking die on me.
I have decided that this is how it will go,
that on Sundays I will water Roxanne's fern
and leave it to drain overnight in the kitchen sink,
in the cool kitchen dark. On Monday
I will awaken to it, and begin another week --
the living the first thing I touch.