Lilies in Bloom

With lilies in bloom, I think of my teacher

in the earliest of grades,

who, when I brought her a sheaf of lilies,

stared at them, frowning,

without pleasure.

''Where did you get these,'' she asked coldly.

I told her, in the backyard garden

of family friends who lived next door.

She smiled a strange and twisted smile:

''So I guess you didn't ask permission.''

She seemed not to hear, nor wish to hear

that they always let me pick the flowers,

but went on, saying, ''So these are stolen,''

and added, as though to fuel my grief,

''And that makes you a thief.''

The burden of sadness and regret

may surface, sometimes, even yet,

but I tell myself: forget.

Forget the spurned gift

and the face of one who spurned it.

Remember, in China, it is said,

if you have two loaves of bread,

sell one, and buy a lily -

and think of that instead.

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