Before we lost the house, the land,
the antiques and Oriental rugs,
my mother asked that bamboo
be planted, as though a recreation
of the jungle where her father
caught malaria during the war
and had to be sent back to recover.
Her family had lobster dinners every night,
with French fries and lemon meringue pie,
to build his strength, help him re-join
the celebrity generals he served,
requisitioning ice cream for
Chinese guerillas, to thank them
for their crusade against fascism.
For these heroics—a cultivated silence, logistical
finesse, growing troops in segments while absorbing
the mistakes of others, turning them to his advantage—
he was promoted to subsequent wars, the battle
against red tape and finally, retirement. Us kids didn’t appreciate
him, he raged from his last hospital bed; he should
be put on a pedestal, though how could we have
lifted him, weak as we were, stiff as he was.
Like bamboo uprooted from its natural habitat.
The apogee of the plant ushers in a great death:
the fruit that grows only once in its lifetime attracts
rodents, who enforce famine by consuming all stores
of grain within a large radius. Not unlike the demise
of a patriarch who holds the family together,
even as he fiercely protects the secret
to surviving the weedy labyrinth.
Jane Rosenberg LaForge lives in New York. She is the author of three full-length collections of poetry; four chapbooks; a memoir; and two novels. Her most recent book of poetry is “Medusa’s Daughter” (Animal Heart Press 2021). Her 2018 novel, “The Hawkman: A Fairy Tale of the Great War” (Amberjack Publishing), was a finalist in two categories in the Eric Hoffer awards. More work is forthcoming in Pirene’s Fountain, Evening Street Review, and Blue Unicorn.