i collect them
i gather them
like a young, prairie girl
with her hair braided
as she plucks flowers from a field
and stores them in a wicker basket

i worship this ritual
of culling makeshift mothers
in an attempt
to fill the void
your death
carved out in my soul
so i seek you out in others:

the ones who coddle me
as they apply sunscreen
to the back of my neck
and explain the day’s plans
in a childlike simplicity
down to the smallest of details
though only the ones they know
i’ll care about
like the snacks that’ll be carried
in the backpack we share

the one who whipped out a knife
late at night in the drive-thru
where we were buying milkshakes
and sawed away at her hair
to gift me a few strands
that i twirled in my fingers
and played with in my mouth
for hours, and hours

the ones who caringly scold me
wrap their arms around me
in the soft, warm, gentle embrace of a hug
after giving me softer clothes for my skin
and rubbing lotion on my injuries
before teaching me yet another new thing
like how to worship the stream
and love wholly and uniquely

i bless all of these caregivers
knowing that losing them hurts
just as deep as your grave
so i hold on to them in my heart
long after they’re gone
like the girl
who goes home
and presses the flowers
in her great-grandmother’s Bible
and stores it on a top shelf
almost out of sight