He has no choice when his mother
dies giving him life with his father’s
name sealed on her blue lips.
He has no choice when his adopted
mother chooses him and sits
with him during sickness and nightmares.
Walks him to school, makes him peanut
butter sandwiches, kisses his bruises
and laughs at his silly jokes.
But when he is ten, he is asked
to make a choice at the Rose
Ceremony on Mother’s Day.
White if your mother is dead.
Red if she is alive. The only mother
he has known is sitting stiff
on a folding chair and he knows
she wants to jump up and say,
It’s okay if you choose her.
And he knows his birthmother
who is watching over him
wouldn’t mind if he chose red.
But it is his choice. With his right
hand he reaches for the red rose
and with the left hand he picks the white,
sticks them in his buttonholes
and marches off with the scout troop
to salute their mothers.
Sharon Waller Knutson is a retired journalist who lives in Arizona. She has published several poetry books including My Grandmother Smokes Chesterfields (Flutter Press 2014,) What the Clairvoyant Doesn’t Say and Trials & Tribulations of Sports Bob (Kelsay Books 2021) and Survivors, Saints and Sinners (Cyberwit 2022.) Her work has also appeared recently in GAS Poetry, Art and Music, The Rye Whiskey Review, Black Coffee Review, Terror House Review, Trouvaille Review, ONE ART, Mad Swirl, The Drabble, Gleam, Spillwords, Muddy River Review, Verse-Virtual, Your Daily Poem, Red Eft Review and The Five-Two.