The Lilies

When I learned I might have cancer,
I bought fifteen white lilies. Easter was gone:
the trumpets were wilted, plants crooked with roots
bound in pots. I dug them into the garden,
knowing they would not bloom for another year.
All summer, the stalks stood like ramshackle posts
while I waited for results. By autumn, the stalks
had flopped down. More biopsies, laser incisions,
the cancer in my tongue a sprawling mass. Outside,
the earth remained bare, rhizomes shrunken
below the frost line. Spring shoots appeared
in bright green skins, and lilies bloomed
in July, their waxed trumpets pure white,
dusting gold pollen to the ground.
                                                                     This year,
tripled in number, they are popping up again. I wait,
a ceremony, for the lilies to open, for the serpentine length
of the garden to bloom in the shape of my tongue’s scar,
a white path with one end leading into brilliant air,
the other down the throat’s canyon, black
and unforgiving. I try to imagine
what could grow in such darkness. I am waiting
for the lilies to open.

“The Lilies" from Markings on Earth by Karenne Wood.  Copyright © 2001 by Karenne Wood.  Reprinted by permission of the University of Arizona Press.
More Poems by Karenne Wood