Three Rocks Jutting Up from Snow

in the back yard
gray rocks without meaning unlike the three rocks
placed in white raked sand at the Japanese Gardens
in Lethbridge          My aunt and cousin are with me
We go on a sunny windy day
to see the five tiered Pagoda
with ceremonial bell
and island shaped like a turtle

Japanese girl in traditional kimono
explaining “nothing in the garden
must distract from mediation”
I am only half-listening

Before entering the tea room
we take of our shoes
The Pagoda is made without nails
The wood imported from Japan
There are probably other things
I should remember
but mostly I remember my aunt in pink flowered dress
exclaiming “I thought there’d be flowers in the garden at least!”

On that same day another aunt          Great Aunt
dying in hospital          Hush of nurses
vases of flowers on the night stand          IV attached to her hand
steady drip drip of liquid into her body          tubes like vines reaching

A week later
I sit with cousins
stare at the open coffin          the smiling face
White coffin surrounded by flowers at a time when
life becomes a joke Distracted I wonder How many nails
to make a church? Where is the wood imported from? Lilies
and yellow mums and roses          other times other places

This morning three rocks without meaning jutting up from snow.

This poem “Three Rocks Jutting Up from Snow” originally appeared in Poets’ Words. Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 115 (Winter 1987): 64.

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