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  • Writer's pictureArden Young

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

Photo Credit: Simon Wilkes for Unsplash

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.

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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