Paper Flowers

Jamie Grischkan

She taught me
what her grandmother once taught her,
in borrowed moments scented
with aged perfume that hung like
dried leaves in pockets of sagging skin,
how to bend, fold, and tear
the edges of a paper square
into a four-petaled flower.

When my father had left for the day,
in the sticky sweet months of
an Indian summer,
my mother showed me the way,
guiding my hands through
slow, uncertain movements
until I found my pace
in the rhythm of her smile,
until a paper garden filled
our kitchen and our hearts
with easy joy.

Draped in the warm haze
of lazy afternoons
she taught me,
in the shade of our
permanent flowers,
the simpler things,
how to love and be loved,
how to sing laughter
like a favorite melody,
how to trust in the
moments between the folds,
infused with an ordinary kind of magic
that was enough, then,
to remind her of the secret places
even the deepest hurts cannot touch.

In the crush and sigh of paper edges
I heard the lonely song
of my mother’s heartbeat
and matched my breath to hers,
unspoken words spelled out in the
crinkled cry of careful tears,
two pieces ripped from a whole.

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