I spent the summer tending the seedlings
gave to a friend
to give to sister-in-law
to give to me, sending word
the plants had a decades old Hiawassee Hollow pedigree
grown in the garden next to the cinderblock house with no plumbing.
Or, as far as I knew,
came from the Pulaski County Lowe’s.
When father-in-law died
a week later, drowned in a flood of his own heart’s making,
I sunk those plants in the ground quick,
expecting yellow squash from the looks of the leaves,
according to Google.
I crossed my fingers,
prayed they lived,
summoned the signs because
father-in-law never gave us much.
Last time it was a transistor radio in 2006, battery-powered.
In case the rapture came, he said, and we got left behind.
Or, I figured,
maybe even if the power went out in a storm.
I doubt there’s ever been a squash plant
pinned with such hope because
I didn’t cry much when he died,
didn’t comfort my husband the right amount,
didn’t change our vacation plans.
When the blooms came, I rejoiced.
Full-bottom squash blossoms,
skirts wide as the hem of my wedding dress
at the ceremony he didn’t attend because
he was in jail, another DUI.
The blossoms lengthened
to prickle-skinned shafts,
butter and egg yolk yellow,
peeping from under broad fronds, jungle leaves,
looking like they belonged in the outskirts of Manila,
where he ordered a wife once.
The squash came and we ate it,
roasted, sautéed, boiled
casseroled with shredded cheddar and Ritz crackers.
One was forgotten on the vine,
rocket-sized and too course to eat,
but glutted with
dense, pinkie-nail seeds
that I laid out on a dishcloth to dry,
and gave to the half-brother
none of us had ever met
who drove across three states
to attend father-in-law’s graveside service
held two months late.
Then the blossoms died.
Wilted to day-old coffee filter brown.
there weren’t enough female flowers
for the males to cross-pollinate,
not enough females to be fertilized
so the last crop of male flowers
That whole seed batch given to
the half-brother none of us had ever met,
who’d never listened to a liquored sermon about microchips and vaccines,
who’d never forged the tetanus-bearing rusty nail dog shit laden landmine of a yard,
who’d never drunk a cup of pudding thick instant coffee from a spit-cleaned mug,
who’d never visited the hospital, never explained the situation to a social worker,
never sent care packages of mixed nuts and summer sausages to get his weight up.
folded up in a paper towel
stuffed in an envelope seven hundred miles away
with a half-brother
all of us just met
holding the only legacy we ever got.