Common Rush

by Anna Crowe

Common Rush
          for Swithun

The flowers, by August, brownish withered knots;
but something about the way they sprout

growing so far, no further, up the stem
as though to exemplify the golden mean,

while the smooth shaft carries on
to its fine conclusion

brings you to mind: a balance, willingness
to live within your strength, content with less.

Climbing Massanella, under your grandfather’s taunts
you shrank into a stubborn, reedlike patience

thin adolescent who’d outgrown his strength
choosing to stay beside the cave’s mouth.

When we came down hours later,
you showed me the spring and chained cup: water

brimmed a rocky basin, before spilling over
into the dark. On the summit, black vultures

had been mere specks. Leaving
the cave, you pointed at what I’d missed: thriving

tucked between a step’s riser and tread,
cyclamen balearicum; rare, sweetscented.