Issue No. 15, Winter 2015

Hibiscus
Catherine Arra

She forgot to bring in the potted hibiscus, forgot when she folded the patio lounge and hauled it to the basement. On the last day of summer she stroked the petals, powdery soft like a cat’s ears and forgot. Fortunately, October was frostless and she had time. November too, remained unusually balmy. But the blooms like delicate portals, smooth silk draping and fluttering open in the slightest breeze, had long since disappeared. Early September perhaps; she had lost track with the nerves of the new school year, but the deep green foliage, almost black, sharp and exquisitely cut, firm like ivy, stayed hardy well past Veterans Day.

There was time to decide she decided, exactly where she would place it indoors, and this required thought, calculations of space and growing conditions that were limited and too much to handle along with preparations for the in-laws coming for a week in October and then eleven days for her father flying up from Florida.

Another season dismissed and she clean forgot while writing lessons, grading papers changing bed sheets, towels, tidying bathrooms and composing lists:

turkey

potatoes

cranberries

nuts

sweater for Mom

books for Dave

tinsel

a honey baked ham.

She signed greeting card notions of peace and joy, evergreens quilted in fluffy down, holly boughs, doves and hoped it would snow. It did, nearly killing the green, curling the leaves into crispy claws.

The suffering was more than she could bear, remembering the blooms and their blooming, the pink petals yawning and puckering as if kissing her goodnight. She forgot she had forgotten, forgave herself and the hibiscus. After all, weren’t they both casualties of nature? Perhaps it went dormant like the azalea or the bleeding heart, would rest and resurrect come spring. Perhaps there was time. She felt vindicated and ignored her negligence until mid-January when 58 inches: the debris of blizzards and dustings, drifts and shoveling, brought her to her knees while she brewed strong coffee waiting for a sun to lift its pale face above the walls of winter. Ten feet and half the window view was blocked where the hibiscus lay underneath.

Her memory was too fuzzy to imagine lush petals and butterflies lifted in summer winds or morning dew on the roof where ice dams formed a new inch each day. The door stopped opening under the weight. She empathized and withered, her pink skin turning gray and brackish, curling at the edges and cracking.

But of course, this is a lie. She’d never forget to bring in the potted hibiscus. It thrives under the roof window, nourished on Miracle Gro, water and light. It’s something else out there, buried in the snow.


Catherine Arra lives in upstate New York. A former English and writing teacher, her poetry and prose have been published in various journals online and in print. Recent work appears or will soon appear in The Timberline Review, Writers Tribe Review, Boston Literary Magazine and Sugared Water. Her chapbooks are: Slamming & Splitting (Red Ochre Press, 2014) and Loving from the Backbone (Flutter Press, 2015).