Today, we plant a Limelight hydrangea
in the hole where we dug out the lilac,
where just a month ago, I chopped back
the roots with my garage sale axe.
My wife gave up on it ever flowering,
tall and spindly, spreading
everywhere and nowhere at once.
She gave it seven years to get itself together,
to become a lilac goddammit.
The shovel popped and bent as I pried
the root ball from the earth, the brown
soil, greasy with clay, with shards
of sandstone. The tap root gripped
until it gave, and only the silence held.
Al Ortolani is the Manuscript Editor for Woodley Press in Topeka, Kansas, and has directed a memoir writing project for Vietnam veterans across Kansas in association with the Library of Congress and Humanities Kansas. He is a 2019 recipient of the Rattle Chapbook Series Award.