After I decided the spectacular sewer pipes
planted with hens and chicks were too tacky
to keep, I started to love those succulent
single moms, also called common houseleek
and long ago planted on thatched roofs
to protect homes from lightning bolts.
Stone rose, sacred to Jupiter in the south,
Thor in the north, emblem of security
and prosperity, remedy for rashes, shingles
and caterpillars. To cast a curse,
pay a stranger to pluck a houseleek
from your neighbor’s roof. Almost asleep
beside me in my bed, the child says,
I want to go home. Stone rose sends up
a stock of astral blooms then dies, surrounded
by the offsets it produced. Sempervivum,
Linnaeus called them: always life.
Under a roof with someone who loves you
is your only home, I try to tell her, though
you will always long for what’s not there.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.