The First Rose

macro photography of yellow flowering tree

Death surprised me in a burst of yellow
driving the edge of Cayuga Lake.

The news wasn’t slow like tulips
slowly poking up through soil. No.

Instantaneous blossoms appeared
golden against still slumbering trees.

One moment he was here
green with laughter and love.

Little sunbursts exploding in stars
on hedges and slight lonely sprigs.

Everywhere. As if in an instant
a bad joke turned out to be true.

There were other times like this
when the world quickly changed.

Getting knocked out stealing home
in fourth grade gym class.

Being forgotten at eight sledding
hungry and alone on a cold hill.

The moment my father’s fuse ran out
and he burst upon me by the fireplace.

From high up this town looks dead
even though robins find worms.

What is left to say when your friend
is found stroked out on his carpet?

My parents took too long to die.
They fought the light and suffered.

Soon all flowers will bloom
expectation everywhere they hold.

These bushes waste no time
showing themselves to those who know.

I constantly worry what others
think about what I say and do.

Living on the edge of judgment
has made me want to live longer.

To prove to someone that I am here
colors and all in front of them.

From year to year I plant routine
in long swaths on roadsides.

And yellow always takes hold
chokes out what I have worked for.

I envy the bony touch of Death
and the tight buds it leaves behind.

And I’m frustrated with how long it takes
others to see what is before them.

The lake has turned from steel to blue
and forsythia has made me die again.

Eric Machan Howd

Eric Machan Howd (Ithaca, NY) is a poet, musician, and educator. In 2020, their fifth collection of poetry, “Universal Monsters,” was published by The Orchard Street Press. They are currently working on an erasure project using a work by author H.P. Lovecraft.