An Iris and Mrs. Roberts – Claude Kelley Kirk

It was second grade
and you, Mrs. Roberts
maker of minds
mender of knees
were beautiful to me
in ways I didn’t
yet understand.
In some ways
I still don’t
and that, too
is beautiful.

The purple iris grew
around our cistern,
by the sleepy mimosa
and the grape arbor.
Between the rusty sheds
and sagging clothes lines
hung from grey
galvanized poles
leaning lazily in the
soft Kentucky soil.
This ー was my adytum.

In the sweet sussurance
of April evenings,
secret and silent
would breathe every bloom
and again and again
draw their scent
touch their petals, soft
as puppy paws and
sprites of wind

One lucent morning,
before bus 52
rumbled, then sighed
to a stop at the end
of our rutted,
muddy driveway;
I found the one
purplest iris.
And I picked it
for you, Mrs. Roberts
— but you never knew,
fairest flower.

On the bus
the other boys
(my friends),
being boys,
did what boys
exorcised of empathy,

The iris lay on
the worn metal floor.
Its petals torn,
pedicle bent and
bruised and
I myself torn,
between fealty
to fraternity
and the onus of
the oddment.
I chose the latter,
and here
there were changes.

I learned much
that bright spring morn.
About love born
of innocence,
and innocence lost
is innocence frivoled.
I learned about the
causality of cruelty
and about the
poverty of roles.
About the perils
of sentiment
and the loneliness
of singularity.
I learned of suffering
and of shame,
of stigma
and of blame,
the solace
of forgiveness
and the difference
between reasons
and Reason.

Today I saw
a purple iris.
I touched its petals,
took its scent
and just
for a moment
― you were there.

It’s been many years
and I,
am different now.
But you, Mrs. Roberts
and the iris,
are the same.

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