Passiflora incarnata

The Frigidaire was out again so the old Coke cooler
under the peach tree held butter and cheese, milk
ready to sour, the last of the lettuce. At the ice plant
we wait in the queue of wagons and bicycles as men
swing sledges to break blocks, tossing quarters
into dairy trucks, smaller pieces trundled to homes
in a front basket by enterprising boys.

I slip my mother’s grasp and wander west to window
shop the porcelain tea services, embroidered handkerchiefs
draped casually atop the confirmation bibles. Sidestep water
guttering from the melt, my Buster Browns no match for
burning sidewalk shimmering with quartz flake, miniature oases.
I long to suck chips spinning from beneath muscled men
in white undershirts, to be unkempt, untended,
but my mother says I am to avert my eyes from such
displays so it was then that I saw the lime green stem
between lobed leaves snaking up soot blackened brick.

Saucer sized blossoms with bright yellow crosses surprise my fingers
as I trace the trunk from tiniest crack between sidewalk and wall. Tease
curling tendrils above the ten purple petals, out, back. The only living
thing beyond half dead trees between the two buildings and why
does no one notice? I’ve barely seconds to try and memorize
such unexpected beauty when the squeaking wagon alerts me
that there is no time to dawdle, ice already melting, miles to go.

Our trips were many that summer, and so were the blooms, as it climbed ever
higher up the rough walls, and although I didn’t know the name nor legend,
I committed it to my sketchbook. Years later, walking Seventy-fifth Street
found the ice plant a victim of Freon, the flea-market’s stuccoed walls
providing no purchase for the Passion Flower’s tendrils, all cracks tarred.

By Pat Anthony

purple passionflower blooms with maturing fruit

To read more of Pat Anthony’s poems please visit middlecreekcurrents.

Photo by Kenneth Keifer

Leave a Reply