We finally talk, palm tree humid balm doesn’t
wilt the rules. This rehab center is strict.

He follows the rules, says he toes a step,
we’d almost stepped into a mortgage weeks ago

almost engaged up ladder rungs. Ring-finger lamina
antsy for a try at something like a ferris wheel with lights,

but seasons passed, lies and lies
windy cirrus threadbare dead-eyed lying

beguiled by my own rosy lenses
I enabled his distorted senses. Fenced into grief,

I finessed and bluffed I was fine and believed
my own protestation of her absence, my mother

like the flowers he’d bought me when he was certainly
not sober. Sunflowers and yellow lilies, fake

stems green stalks spiked with metal middles
absent of pheromones, unpliable zombie corpses,

he couldn’t understand why the stems wouldn’t snap
in crisp vegetal break like celery crunched in a jaw,

so he sawed with my costly serrated bread knife
back and forth to dissever fake fascial threads

until something slipped when metal hit metal
an angle askew in his sedated hand,

and the razor teeth bit him hard
with slicing reach across his thumb they hewed to bone

straight through the nail, skin unadhered.
Dealt with his own emergency,

he was hours late to join us at the ICU
thumb wrapped like the concussed skull of a cartoon

who saw stars after falling from an obvious cliff,
he bragged in the lobby of how he did not feel pain

and of the flowers at home on the counter for me.
When we got home, it was easy to follow trailheads

of blood drops along the path to surgery remnants
on that night my mother really started fading

embarkment of synthetic flowers on the counter
fakely verdant field looked quite real

so I kept them in a vase
to brighten up the kitchen.

Emily Hyland’s poetry appears in armarolla, The Brooklyn Review, Sixfold, Palette Poetry, Maryland Literary Review, and The Hollins Critic, among others. In 2021, her poem, Ashes Arts and Crafts, placed third in the Frontier Award for New Poets. Emily earned her MFA in poetry and my MA in English education from Brooklyn College. A restaurateur and educator from New York City, she co-founded the national restaurant group, Pizza Loves Emily, and her cookbook, Emily: The Cookbook, was published by Ballantine Books, an imprint of Random House, in 2018.