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When She Dies, My Mother Wants to Be Planted as a Tree

by Gabriel Meek

We have this plant—his name is Benvolio. He lives
in our giant kitchen window, which is so old
and inefficient that someone before us painted it closed.
We named him Benvolio because Shakespeare doesn’t kill
Benvolio. We’ve almost one-upped Shakespeare’s
body-count twice by carelessly leaning against the
window—Benvolio’s leaves stick in our hair, we pull away,
he decapitates. But a succulent’s broken bits grow just as
well, so he shares his pot with Mercutio, his friend reborn
as a star-shaped green thing. We’ll have the full cast by the
time we learn to stop killing our plants. When she dies, my
mother wants to be planted as a tree. We have this bamboo.
It lives in our living room on a high shelf, where watering
requires balance and precision. So high off the ground that
our hair won’t ensnare its leaves. We have this bamboo
because it is difficult to kill. We’ve killed jades, avocados,
mowed the tulips by accident, forgot to water the bleeding
heart, crushed the lawn with a CAT and a de-limber to
prevent the neighbor’s tree from crushing our roof. This
bamboo drinks slowly, soaks up water from the rocks where
its roots twine, so slowly that forgetting is the only option.
When she dies, my mother wants to be planted as a tree. We
had this tree. Well, she did. It replaced another, one whose
missing stump still leaves a darker dip in the lawn. Her
grandfather planted the new one for her, and the apples that
sprang from it each year inspired poems from her
and poems from me and pink pink applesauce for everyone.
After over a century of continuous memory, our family left.
Now, someone who isn’t related to us owns the house, the
lawn, and technically the tree. It couldn’t move with the
boxes, the vinyl, and the dirt.
When she dies, my mother
wants to be planted
as a tree.

About the Author

Gabriel Meek is a poet from Spokane, Washington, where he earned his MFA from Eastern Washington University. His poems have appeared in Furrow Magazine, Madcap Review, Star*Line, and elsewhere.

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