Those flowers looping my great-grandfather’s headstone
were the tigerest of lilies, outrageous tongues
licking the hellfire fade of his name
from granite, harder than he was
when his mother begged him to drop his King James
in deathbed drama, and he wouldn’t.
Forgetting finally what it was he protested,
but not the color of it, on his own dying,
he asked his daughters to plant those lilies,
so everyone knew an orangeman laid there.
The last one alive
told me his story, pinching
faded flowers from the stems
while she spoke it, her words thin and crisp
as the skin stretched over her hands,
hands shaped like my mother’s
and as strong, a thing I learned
the moment I said, but the stems
are still green.
My ears still ring that memory.