No. 28

“Colonel,” I cried, “Colonel, come!”

The plant had fallen from the window sill and gathered
Itself around her feet in a weave of muddy roots. She
Squalled, as though her toy boats had been forgotten at
Bath time, left in the wooden crook where all of them
Were stowed away.

“What's wrong?” The colonel's voice murmured through
From the study.

I watched the ground spill its tiles onto the earthenware
Pot, crumbling a fine dust into the air. I worried it would
Sweep her away. The grumble of a scraping chair beyond
The study door revealed a side of her I wouldn't otherwise
Know to exist.

“Take my hand.” She said.

Her fingers curled my wrist, and as I stood, vines grew
From our hold. They scrambled into our arms and made
A bush of our hearts, tending a silent tune from the bark.
She spoke to me, and I knew then why it was that we
Would never move.

“Do you see?”

I nodded. At least, I thought so. The tears were gone and
In their place were playful spirits, but at the first sign of
Light shunting into the kitchen she transformed to the sad
Storm, hunting the world for comfort. I dropped my hand,
Running a mile inside.

“Oh dear,” the Colonel's shadow limped into the room,
Framing the floor with darkened days.

The ground that bound her feet from me released a sigh,
Echoing along the branches between us. The weeds
Vanished, and her cries fell onto his reverent chest. He
Brought his boughs around her and sunk his knees into
The deep.

“Shush, poppet.” He crooned.

I thought it odd that the Colonel would be so caring. He
Often would shout and swear, bawling into the nights a
Howl of gusts that crackled around the house, tearing the
Lanterns from their sockets and screaming insensibilities
To the floorboards.

“But… I broke it.” She guilted her eyes.

Her little bones shivered as he drew her to arms length,
His oaken face stooping to glimpse a sign of the sprites
That dwelt behind her reddened palms. I felt sure that
She would come to me, in whom she had found such
Peace in the past.

“It's just a pot.” He soothed. “The plant will live on.”

She sniffed, breaking rhythm, holding back what years
Of life she wore. The dust suspended, humming softly
In my ears, and I think for her it must have too for she
Pushed her hair beyond them, clearing the way for leaves
To fall.

“It will?”

The Colonel submerged, taking with him a collection of
Ceramic fingers. Her eyes caught his drift and glid along
His wooden, war-torn hands. I remembered me the Nurse,
What she said before her journey, that only in death there
Is life.

“Of course.”

Would she remember too? How the Colonel and Nurse
Would sit with her 'til sun-fall and project the stars onto
Her sleeping ceiling; how they forged a forest of fire for
Her crib, cats cradling her fears into dream catchers then
Setting them free.

“But… How?” She burrowed.

He rose with the decomposing plant, setting a tumbler to
One side of his hearth. With anvil arms he drew a new
Picture for the misplaced soul, filling its white tendrils to
Gladness and dirt. I sat, leaden legged and anchored of
My arteries.

“The pot matters not.” He kneaded. “And soil is only a
Passing thing.”

She shed her leaves, seeing the little shrub stand tall once
More. A breeze overcame her emboldened being bringing
With it a wonder of the ancient world. The Colonel's will
Stiffened, and I sensed that he would fall back to his wise
And distant prison.

“It's the same plant.” She sighed, the longing still there but
Wearing her roots with pride.