Don’t let Dad water the plants—there’s a specific way it’s best done he doesn’t understand. No matter how tired your lungs may be, how crowded with tumor and pooling with fluid, do it yourself.

Those huge blue barrels—the kind you don’t have to buy if you keep an eye out while driving by run-down truck yards at night—you’ll have one of those sawed in half, sitting under the carport gutter already. It’s Florida, so the barrel is always full. Don’t mind the mildew; the plants won’t.

 photo by the author

photo by the author

Plunge a bucket in, pull. If the two-gallon weight is too much, let it sink. Bring it back up sideways so half spills out as it surfaces.

Start behind the shed: pineapple and tomato vine, basil and mint.

Refill the bucket, maybe less than half this time—the patio is a longer walk.

Pour out over caladium and peace lily. Sit on the swing, catch your breath before returning for the chenille. Don’t ask for help, and don’t accept it. Ignore the hose.

Refill outside, catch your breath. Finish the job. Be thankful for all the old rain, for the barrel it fills as quickly as you empty it.

No need to use of your own what God’s already given—you would say this if you were the type of mother who explains. Better to leave your children to figure out the why themselves, have something new to learn from you when you’re gone.

- Bryce Emley is a freelance writer and MFA student at NC State. His work can be found in Best American Experimental Writing 2015Prairie SchoonerMid-American ReviewYour Impossible Voice, etc., and he serves as Poetry Editor of Raleigh Review