Like bruises, she remembers thinking
as she fingered the bulbs, their paper-wafery skins
tinged with the shifting iridescence
she'd last seen on mussel-shells.
That was six weeks to a day before the grim diagnosis.
She'd chanced on them - three firm orbs peeking through
a Woolworth's bag her husband had stashed at the back
of her utility drawer - a temporary forgetfulness.
Sensing time was running out, and as surprise for him
she'd taken them, firming them in fresh compost,
and recalling his sermoning - Water, then forget them.
Best let the roots put out their filaments - had placed
the crazed porcelain bowl below the dark stair-well.
By the time the X-ray came, their tips had
nippled through, with stems pushing to fullness
the next few months on the kitchen window-sill.
He was thrilled. But, the bruises puddling hungrily
to mulberry down his leg, hadn't had chance to see,
or smell, or touch the blossoms' waxy handsomeness.
Now back from the crem under angling sun
and the mist of sherry glasses - her family long gone,
Father Dykes sliding benignly away - she catches
minor-glimpses of herself finger-tracing their bell-shapes,
their deaths already settling in.
Suddenly shudders at palls of heady fragrances,
and, repelled by their Our-Lady-blueness gaping,
that bruising insolence of living,
confesses she cannot understand
why for the life of her
he so cherished them,
year on year
- Roger Elkin
"Blue Hyacinths" won the First Prize in the Diversity House (Excel for Charity) Poetry Competition 2009