Flowers for Mom: “How to Care for African Violets”

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How to Care for African Violets

You loved flowering plants, Mama,
but never had a green thumb.
Your thumb was fleshy pink underneath sepia,
darker than your official retirement gift:
a solid oak wall clock—and softer.

After your last day at work
you put the potted plant gift
on the kitchen windowsill—
the shade ceremoniously drawn at half-mast
to welcome the rising sun.

When company would come
you’d set the blooming plant on the tallest table
in the living room.
The brilliant violet petals and wooly waxen leaves
would glow under artificial light.

On special family occasions,
your brown hands delivered the flower plant
to the dining room table.
You’d ask my sister or me
to gently open the window blinds.

My sister and I gladly obliged,
eager to see you, beautiful in the light—
even as your petals fell and
your leaves bent with acceptance
of the end of your season.

(for P.A.W.)

Audio: How to Care for African Violets by Danna Williams

“How to Care for African Violets” © 2009 by Danna Williams; from Sense, a collection of previously published and unpublished poems.


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