Spring comes late to Northern Pennsylvania, the heads of new trout lilies
bent with the last smattering of snow. Chickadees chatter in the crook
of a magnolia that won’t bloom for two more weeks, but still I return to it,
hoping the gray pods will have broken open overnight.
Like a spoon scraping the bottom of a tin bowl, Mama’s voice
scratches through the phone, saying transplant, saying 30% chance.
I strip off my mittens, heave myself into the tree.
I know what questions to ask, the language of cancer lodged
in my mouth like a rotted tooth, but instead I say
my visa came today, tell her about my unsmiling photo,
how the seal shimmers and reads étudiant.
I could stay, I tell Mama, because I have to—
because that’s what a good daughter does.
I say, I could give you my marrow and mean
I could give you my year in Toulouse. Take it.
Take the chocolate heart spun into the center of a tartine,
take the Basilique Saint-Sernin’s hourly racket of bells,
take the peacock feather from the Jardin des Plantes,
where roses reach full bloom by mid-February.
In the pause that follows, I wish there were leaves
for the wind to tremble through instead of just my scarf,
its tassels twirling as if for joy.
You’re not the right blood type, she tells me. Don’t stay.
I don’t know whether to say thank you or I’m sorry so I settle
for I love you, and she says she loves me too, says I’ll let you go now,
as if she hasn’t done that already. When I hang up the phone,
I break a pod soft as a caterpillar from the branch beside me and split it
with my thumbnail, bury my nose in the petals still tightly wrapped.