Upon the death of my neighbor in Omaha
A chain link fence
separates my dwelling from my neighbor
I barely knew her
we seldom spoke.
Last night my neighbor came on the evening news
they said she was a teacher
renowned for her gardening
loved by her students.
Reporters and cameras covered the street
fire trucks with
their rotating lights struggled
to penetrate the oppression
acrid smoke ensnared everything.
Tiny flowers on wispy vines
cling to the fence in such profusion
they almost hide its existence
they have strange hours
these evanescent flowers
that only remain open in the morning.
The flowers bloom for the first time each year
as the summer season is about to die
early in the morning they appear
only before first light
Lavender, magenta, rose red, and white
small fragile stars with five petals
flaunt their vivid colors.
The fence flowers are more profuse
than ever late this afternoon
this is strange
it never happened before.
Just before the sun reaches its zenith
the fence flowers
always quickly tighten into cones
become invisible in the dark vines.
Fire erupted in my neighbor’s house
as she slept unaware
smoke choked the life out of her
just before first light.
No one knew until it was too late
only the fence flowers witnessed it
bright, silent witnesses
lavender, magenta, rose red, and white.
When smoke enveloped the flowers
as they awakened
at first light
did they inhale the fragrance of a soul
with an inscrutable sense
as it fled its earthly body?
Do they tell me that a soul flower now blooms
where we cannot see it
illuminated in brilliance
in a faraway garden?
During the winter when the vines shrivel up
and fall to the dirt
you believe they can’t come back
they reunite with the earth
you see the end of them.
Yet now the flowers
glow brighter than ever.
“And now concerning thy question regarding the soul of man and its survival after death. Know thou of a truth that the soul, after its separation from the body, will continue to progress until it attaineth the presence of God, in a state and condition which neither the revolution of ages and centuries, nor the changes and chances of this world, can alter. It will endure as long as the Kingdom of God, His sovereignty, His dominion and power will endure. It will manifest the signs of God and His attributes, and will reveal His loving kindness and bounty.” (Baha’u’llah)