This poem is the winner of Plough’s 2022 Rhina Espaillat Poetry Award.
I used to bring back flowers for my mother.
I’d stop the car and gather a small bunch.
She’d always be surprised, and always grateful.
She’d put them in a vase. Could we have lunch?
I wasn’t free, but that part did not matter
so much, I told myself. It was the thought.
She loved my stopping by for those few minutes.
Still, I’d feel guilty, since I felt I ought
to visit far more often, and for longer.
She never said it, but I knew she knew
that I could make the time. I’d sometimes linger,
but then I’d go do what I had to do,
hoping that what I could and did not say
might be made up for by that small bouquet.