Ripening

Emily Nason

2011 Runner-Up

The summer I left home, a woman next to a honeysuckle vine
counted the pearl buttons of my mother’s sweater. She said,

I like your button. Your button. Your button. No one heard
except my mother and the woman’s wooden doll, its joints revealing

themselves with every count. And when I open the letters my
mother sends, I long for her lips across my bare forehead, for

peaches ripening in brown paper bags, for something other
than letters to hold on to. As the ink fades, I try to forget that

I’m someone apart from her, at a place my roots can’t grasp. I protect
my mother from becoming that woman in the Alzheimer’s garden,

forgetting the names of flowers she never knew, and my mother
protects me from becoming any woman. And until one of us loses

the grip on the other, we’ll measure love in letters I never
respond to, assuming they keep coming at all.

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