The eve of Valentine’s Day he died,
Hours before the mad rush for roses began.
We learned of his death this morning—
When the belated e-mail arrived.
Red roses for beloveds,
Yellow for friends,
Lavender for mothers,
White for the departed.
I bought a red rose for my wife,
A burnt rose for my daughter,
A white rose for the little boy.
Years before I had inscribed him
A copy of Maggie Brown’s “Runaway Bunny”
And left it with his grandmother.
(The author, to demonstrate
Her robust surgical recovery,
Leapt out of bed,
Gave a Can-Can kick in the air,
Threw a pulmonary embolus
And promptly died in Nice.
No one expected her untimely death at forty-two;
We knew the boy was dying at nine.)
Our new puppy fetches
The old toy again and again;
Silently, we eat a hot meal
To ward off the wintry chill.
In fading sunlight
The white rose
Sheds its petals,
One by one.