Ferns

by Maisie Houghton

Early summer,
driving to leafy, lonely Vermont
In a car of childhood,
my mother somehow senses
I am unwell, a mild complaint
yet still she stops by the roadside.

She wants me
to think of something else
other than my snail of self.
The slow purr of the motor halts;
she parks deftly — as befits her.
Sun seesaws through white birches.
There is miraculously a brook and thickest green:
Solomon’s Seal, skunk cabbage and a patch of ferns.

She spreads out the tendrils of a fern,
smoothing them on her skirt.
Its fronds curl and brown
ever so slightly under her touch.

Perhaps, she suggests,
her voice low and coaxing,
I could trace it,
watch it spread and grow on the page of the book
I had once given her and which now
I will want her to keep forever.