Tributaries: “Lily Watch”

By Lisa Hammond

Another year we greet summer, spider
lilies waking in the Catawba every May,
this time blooming slow, a cool April.
We follow the lily watch, high water
warnings, papers reporting clumps washed
upstream, rare but still enduring, nowhere
else in the world so many. Shooting roots
deep in rocky shoals, they cling stubborn
through flood, sweep and wave in brave
green bunches, til we can breathe again.
I have watched them with other lovers, yet
still they are ours, even the year we missed
when your mother was sick, even the year
we were too tired and stayed home instead.
Stars still shine in daylight. The lilies raise
their fringed white heads, brief blossoming,
they build and peak and fade—only here
I am not afraid to say, let me be your last.
If I could cross that first wide stretch
of swift water, the lilies might carry me
the rest of the way across, skip me over
rocks and grassy river, long petals brushing
my leg like a shy cat’s whiskers. You would
follow, through the buds, through the dying
papery blossoms, you always do, the lilies
not minding our foolishness, our blooming
as rare, flowers slight yet constant, nodding
patient at us, knowing they will outlast us.

Lisa Hammond’s poems have appeared in Tar River Poetry, Southern Poetry Review, Calyx, The South Carolina Review, English Journal, storySouth, North Carolina Literary Review, and Literary Mama, among others, and she have work forthcoming in Birmingham Poetry Review. Her chapbook Moving House (Texas Review Press, 2007) won the Robert Phillips Poetry Chapbook Prize. She is a professor of English at the University of South Carolina Lancaster.