“The Greenhouse,” “Open Water,” and “Brotherhood of the Brotherless”

“The Greenhouse,” “Open Water,” and “Brotherhood of the Brotherless”

The Greenhouse
Photo by eduard on Unsplash

The Greenhouse

On a corner lot

nestled among two story homes

wooden swing sets

and paved driveways

stands a glass greenhouse.

Black framing lines

each window and door

and a warm light reveals

leafy vines and rows of plants

resting on high wooden tables.

On eight winter mornings

I escaped there

running through the cold

while my daughter lay

under fluorescent lights

and heated blankets,

working on not dying.

Most days a woman was inside

her arms raised as she tended

the hanging plants

or hunched forward when she worked

on the rows of terra cotta pots.

I watched her train vines

up a mesh screen

and prune brown leaves.

I watched as she tipped

a copper can over each plant

gently moistening the soil.

On eight winter mornings

I paused there, resting

my hands on my thighs

as I caught my breath

before the inevitable return.

On eight winter mornings

I left my daughter’s room

walking past patients slumped in wheelchairs

and visitors with nervous smiles.

Outside, I’d pull the cool air

into my lungs

my sneakers crunching

on salted pavement.

I’d turn to see

my daughter’s window

guilty for the relief I felt in leaving.

On eight winter mornings

I’d run until I felt the fear

turn to a dull ache

that moved through my limbs.

I willed myself to feel

the humidity – an embrace –

that existed within those glass walls.

On eight winter mornings

that greenhouse saved me

while the doctors saved my child.

And leaving that place

felt as much a gift

as the woman who made the choice

to cultivate life

right there in the midst

of so much cold.

Open Water

She met him downtown at a pet store

called ‘Howl’. His red vest

was oversized and the white name tag

pinned to it said Daisy.

He showed her where the fish bowls

were and gave detailed instructions

about how to safely transplant

her betta to its new home.

“Daisy’s an interesting name,”

she commented, reaching for

the rubber plant outstretched in his palm.

“Oh, that’s my dog,” he explained.

“The manager told us to put

our pet’s names on there to help

start conversations with customers.”

At the register she said yes

when he asked her if she’d like

to go out some time. He handed her

a pen that was tied with twine

to a jar of treats so she could

write down her number.

Later, when he stood at her door

not in his uniform but wearing a Nirvana

t-shirt and black Converse high tops

she said, “Hey Daisy” and they smiled,

knowing that this would be their joke.

“Be sure to have her back by curfew!”

her mom yelled from her spot

deep in the couch cushions.

She rolled her eyes and reached

for his hand and she knew

that the night was hers

and it was theirs

and they turned toward the road

that mixed with the sky

and glittered out before them.

Brotherhood of the Brotherless

There’s a bittersweet kinship

among those who’ve lost a sibling

a strange comfort in all

that does not need to be spoken.

Like how it feels to take a seat

at the Thanksgiving table

or to line up for family pictures

at weddings and graduations

knowing there should be another chair

at the table, another body

to drape your arm around in the photo.

There should be an asterisk

on everything that comes after.

And while we all just keep getting grayer

and more tired and freckled and wrinkled

 our brothers remain captured, suspended

in yellowed 3x5 photographs with curved edges

stuck in thick, chestnut-haired days

wearing their faded, ripped cutoffs

their tanned, toned limbs gleaming

and wide grins spread effortlessly

across their faces in anticipation

for all that is surely to come.

About the Author

Amy Allen

Amy studied English literature and creative writing at Skidmore College and at Drew University. She’s participated in the Green Mountain Writers Conference and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference in Sicily. Her work is published in The Mountain Troubadour, Pine Row Press, Months to Years, Atlanta Review, Fauxmoir Literary Magazine, The Moving Force Journal, and Sunflowers at Midnight. She lives in Vermont where she owns All of the Write Words, a freelance writing/editing business.

Read more work by Amy Allen.