Night Blooming Cereus
Katherine Smith

Night Blooming Cereus

     Oak Ridge 1943

Some evenings when Daddy’s working late
we sit in the vegetable garden, admire

the border of zinnias, dahlias, blue hydrangeas
darkening in alkaline earth Mama dug, mixing red clay

with peat. I never feel closer than when we inhale
the sweet scent of Mama’s grief, her light touch

of homesickness for her own mother and father.
When she says it’s different, I know she means

my own lumpy grief, means you have me.
We watch the squash and lettuce fade

and wait for the night blooming cereus,
its petals like elegant white gloved fingers

unfurling next to the shadowy vegetables,
petals frothy in the dark, pretty enough to share.

Katherine Smith

has contributed to Poetry, Cincinnati Review, Missouri Review, Ploughshares, Southern Review, and many other journals. Her short fiction has appeared in Fiction International and Gargoyle. Her first book, Argument by Design (Washington Writers’ Publishing House), appeared in 2003, and her second, Woman Alone on the Mountain (Iris Press), was published in 2014. She teaches at Montgomery College in Maryland.