MY FATHER GREW DAHLIAS
I coveted that bike, all red shine and glare
propped on its kickstand in the window of Shields Bike Shop.
I twisted my head to stare at that bike whenever
we drove by but I lied to my father, “Nah, too flashy.”
For sure, he wanted his job back before Christmas,
wished his hands still tightened the vise,
operated the shaper, cut metal once more
within tolerances. Layoffs bloomed
that hot summer in Detroit. Tempers split the humid air
when work trickled in as if dripped from a leaky hose.
My father planted dahlias, one hundred tuberous roots
and staked them against the whoosh of the west wind.
Soil lined our fingernails as we yanked weeds and father
fed me Dahlia names: Blackberry Ice and Cherry Drop,
Candy Cane and Apricot Sun. He answered newspaper ads,
hoped for a call back and deadheaded dahlias, whistling.
At first frost, the dahlias turned brown. My father predicted
snow on Christmas. He tracked jobs, kept in touch and bought
nothing new. White flakes glistened like wet December
dahlias. Petals of snow crystals piled up.
Out front and three houses down that Christmas day,
my father had shoveled the walk. When I straddled my new
red bike and pedaled away, he shaded his eyes
and waited until the tires rolled me back to him.
fiction poetry "fact" photography