Wisteria – Toti O’Brien

Is it the profusion, the abundance of blooms? Or the elegant curve, the reclining arch? The unspeakable shade, blend of lilac and mauve, tenderly ambiguous—like a caressing hand, uncertain and burning. A shade of nostalgia, regret.

Why do I love wisteria? Is it because of esthetics? There is history, too. The plant flooded with blossoms my grandparents’ veranda, where we happily sat during summer nights.

There, at five, I saw a grown up cry. A girlfriend of mother, she wept for a thing strange and bad: a lost love. No idea of what it was, but it sounded painful: like a shrilling note on the piano. I remember the lady’s blond hair, hanging like straw over her face. Falling down, like the wisteria surrounding us.

A year later, perhaps, the trunk was cut to a stump. The roots were too powerful, threatening foundations and walls, grandpa said. I was furious and hurt. I loved the wisteria. Could I have known the house itself would soon vanish (the land expropriated by the government for the most futile cause)? Could I have known grandfather would follow the house, untimely erased by cancer? In a blink: annihilated, uprooted. What did I know of life and its cruelty? Nothing, but I liked the wisteria’s mellow tears. They knew what I didn’t, what it would take me decades to understand.

That life is a collapsing moment. Falling—still stubbornly grasping stones, concrete, bricks, for support. Frantic, seasonal, transient. Liquid, unforgettable, lyrical, incomprehensible. Gone.

Toti O’Brien’s work has appeared in Gyroscope, Birds Piled Loosely, The Capra Review and Burningwords, among other journals and anthologies.