Blue Hydrangeas

In five weeks, three husbands shot their wives
at Fort Bragg. I picture you reading the news
to where it says the men were in Special Ops,
back just days or weeks from the war in Afghanistan.

More casualties. You’d be angry and only later
relieved, which you’d admit to me.
I’d understand how the violence allows
that your return from Special Forces had been as bad

as it seemed. Psychiatric stints and, after you quit
drinking, you’d run for miles from one oblivion
to another. Or you’d draw, your pencil moving
from face to throat like a coroner.

This morning I picked a vaseful of blue hydrangeas.
Even from across the room, they bring me the salty
smell of Barnegat Bay where my parents rented shanties
through my childhood: a week a year

where I’d feel safe, my detective father on vacation
from the violence he’d bring home after a few shots
and beers. Around the foundation, hydrangeas all shades
of blue from scrub pine needles mulching them.

My dad’s dead now 17 years.
You’ve scarred your wife and kids,
but they’re alive and they love you.
What if we’d take safety for granted,

even get bored with it and arrange for ourselves
some controlled danger?
Maybe your memory and mine could become retired
assassins, yours raft-fishing in the river,

trading in your arsenal for camera equipment,
mine arranging bouquets for a florist.

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

Pope Francis said opportunity can come by restoring “the pillars” on which the union was first founded.
Gerard O'ConnellMarch 24, 2017
Some of the tensions still troubling Liberian life have deep social and historical roots.
Kevin ClarkeMarch 24, 2017
“This bill is catastrophic for Catholic social teaching and particularly for the people who we’re called to serve,” Sister Carol Keehan said.
Michael O'LoughlinMarch 24, 2017
Facing one’s clinginess, having to let go—it’s the last lesson, the real revelation of the ascension.
Jim McDermottMarch 23, 2017