I am digging the garden and thinking about old loves
who turn up sudden and shining like daffodil bulbs
in black crumbly spadefuls of years-ago.
Perhaps it's the scent of roses that's set me off
though the gifts I remember best are not the flowers.
This Tony—dark-eyed, a bit overweight, a fine tenor—
scooped the flesh out of half a pineapple
and filled the shell to the brim with Benedictine—
a loving cup to cure my streaming cold.
He proposed one summer Sunday at Maddingly Hall
under magnolia trees, so kind and fatherly,
so little like the extreme, passionate, spiteful run of the mill,
I stuttered, flushed and very nearly took him.
Pressing the bulbs back into damp earth, restoring
the status quo, I wonder about a life in Manchester,
Mrs Headmaster now, it's very likely,
with Oxford sons and a daughter in pharmacy,
my real children nipped, wasted in darkness.
I'm angry at all that power to give or withhold
held by a silly girl who broke with Nick,
languished after a lanky history student,
and married the one who could turn a compliment:
“My love, when a man's walking along with you,
he doesn't need a flower in his buttonhole.”
So off I go, stumping in muddy boots, for a pot
of fuchsia cuttings. That bit of garden's bare
except in spring. I scoop out holes between
the clustered bulbs. Reflecting that it's always
touch-and-go that anything I plant will grow or bloom,
I feel kinder to that younger self, smiling up out of
the chancy weather in Tony's pressed and faded photograph.