by Stephanie Tom
art by Havi Rojer
It wasn’t until yesterday I realized that
the two succulents I had potted earlier
in the year had withered into husks
a few weeks ago. They had lived and died
within the span of a spring cut short,
barely born. Like fever dreams and cherry
blossoms. This is the third time it’s
happened in my life – to plants, at least.
Spring has always come back before, but
I’m not so sure that you can hold it to feel
like as much of an absolute anymore.
Please excuse this paltry elegy for all of
the sadness I can’t find the names for.
I have spent far too many summer days
walking through my existential crises in
a Party City on a quiet afternoon. Too far
from holidays and too far from every
birthday once Cancer season ends. It’s been
years since I’ve thrown a birthday party but I
can’t ever forget the humming excitement
they entailed. I walk through the aisles & am
overwhelmed by the candles around me.
How does it feel to watch the years flash by?
Names are barely memories when they’re
scattered, confetti on plastic tablecloths.
When I sweep a hand over them they flutter
to the floor in clouds almost too thick to read.
Candy floss & pink streamers reach for my
senses, the tulle & frills mocking me. I brush a
hand through them & hope they disappear.
I want to lose myself in pastels & crepe paper –
I want to be soluble, to be solvable. Is that
too much to hope for on rainy days like this?
On my actual birthday I eat cake in the dark
and watch the clock flicker as the storm outside
howls louder. If I listen close enough, I can
almost hear a voice calling my name. I laugh –
the clock glows green, the wind dies down.
I have been hurt too many times to know
what it would feel like to be okay nowadays,
but I am big enough to admit two truths:
succulents always bloom brighter when you
saint them as fleeting colors, and there are
certainly not as many things that can be
taken as truthful absolutes anymore.