Anatomy of Family
When I was little, I didn't understand
how part of something could die
while the rest flourished: a tree limb
tiger lily, blackberry bush—and so
Growing up a gardner, I grew acutely aware
of pruning as a necessity for dying parts
to give the remainder of plantlife
the greatest chance to survive—
At 13, I learned this about humans:
my mother became terminally ill;
they severed nerves to give her body
fighting hope to exist without pain
because in '74, shoulders couldn't be removed.
For five years I witnessed the extent
of what not extracting something diseased
could do to the human physique by
watching it curl into a corpse-like being.
Along years, my father taught me
that you cannot always extricate
a malignant immigrant from your lung
before it infects your kidney or heart.
This was the greatest lesson
death taught me in life: become
shears and prune yourself from toxins:
friends, relationships, and jobs.
Sometimes the cost to survive
is a high price to pay—my ancestors
remitted their lives over trails of tears
and cruel concentration camps.
There are times you cannot prevent
a death sentence no matter how hard
you attempt to preserve a future;
this was the second most important
lesson I learned from both parents
and a long line of ancestral suffering:
know when you can prune—
accept when you cannot;
trust in the seeds you've sown
to flourish as you once did—
as a tree limb, tiger lily
and so forth. . .