Letter to the Rhododendron

decorative border
ILLUSTRATION BY LINDA COOK DEVONA

You are so thirsty, little one,
your leaves droop in the dappled
shade of the maple,
but when I send water your way,
you perk up, shaking
like a golden finch drying from a bath.

And still you end each day forlorn
and every night I awaken you with the cool tube of the hose.
But what’s that inside you?
Behind those glossy leaves are bare sticks.
Dead and brown as the dirt you
sit in. You are dying.

But why? I water you. I feed you. Are you
doing this on purpose because I bought you on sale?
I promise the price isn’t what matters.
You are still beautiful. Your blossoms
will still be fragrant. But only if you
grow. Please grow for me.

I lost three azaleas last year and I can’t
bear to lose another. I thought you would
be better, bigger, more hearty.
You are going to have to fight.
Fight that poor earth you’re in. I am sorry
it is clay and root-filled.

Fight the shade and sun that confuse
your photosynthesis and fight me

and whatever I am doing wrong
that makes you the way you are.


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