The Little White Flower
It is human, I know, to feel inadequate,
But it frustrates me still to no end,
To see a moment pass in which I could help
Where my efforts might have helped a friend.
I was only a girl from South Italy
And America brought with it hope.
I wanted to help, yearned for some kind of chance
That would let me toss them a stout rope.
And then my Pa spoke of the medical tents
Where their surgeon supplies had run low.
He’d decided to help and was packing his things
When I said that I wanted to go.
His smile was sad as he looked down at me,
And he said that it wasn’t my place.
The his cart trundled off down our old cobbled street
While I hid my rebellious face.
I followed him there, to the medical tents
Where the cries of the dying rang clear.
I entered one hut with express intent,
But was met with, ‘What’s she doing here?’
Then they thrust me out without even a thought
That perhaps I could give them some aid.
They were dying for me and I just couldn’t see
Why they wouldn’t except such a trade.
The tears started then and I hurriedly ran
To a place where the tents were most thin.
I sat in a heap and let the tears come
While my worst fears and doubts crowded in.
I was only a girl, what on earth could I do
That could possibly help them at all?
I knew little to none and that’s something you need,
And besides, I was really quite small.
It was then that I noticed the tiny white flower
Standing shyly between blades of grass.
My trembling hand plucked it gently, with care
From its shelter amidst the green mass.
It was fragile and small with the purest white shade.
‘Twas a wonder it hadn’t been killed.
I sat there a moment, contemplating such grace,
Then my chest with bitter irony filled.
I was just like that flower, fragile meekness and all,
And my usefulness ended with looks.
I often fouled up the simplest tasks
And my reading disgraced easy books.
The flood of my anger burned right through the tears,
And I cursed the small flower I was.
My little hands tightened around the frail stem
And my desperate ears started to buzz.
But a sound made it through my cacophonous thoughts
And saved the white flower in my hand.
‘Water,’ it called in a hushed, raspy voice,
Like its owner had been swallowing sand.
I listened a moment for the click of a boot
As a medic supplied his request.
But my waiting was met with absolutely no sound,
So I decided to take up the quest.
I made a quick search and I found what I needed
Then I dashed right on back to his tent.
Still I paused at the door, my doubts flying again,
What if someone had already been sent?
But I remembered that voice in its desperate need,
And I swallowed the doubts and my fear.
Then I pushed through the flap and I took the sight in,
And I wondered, ‘Which voice did I hear?’
The tent was clear full of bandaged men,
All with a wound to be shown.
‘The water’s here,’ my trembling voice said,
As I timidly made the fact known.
At first all was still in the dank, humid room
And my tentative hope seemed for not.
Then a stir caught my eye up against the far wall,
And I knew ‘twas the man that I sought.
I was there in no time with the cup to his lips,
And he drank ‘til the bottom was dry.
When the last drop was gone, he took my small hand
And that tough soldier started to cry.
My tears came as well and I kissed his wet cheek,
For the pain that he didn’t deserve.
I squeezed his rough hand and I hoped that he knew
I was grateful he’d willingly serve.
I sat there with him ‘til his quiet sobs stilled
And it seemed that he’d gone back to sleep.
I cradled his hand, the white flower peeking through,
And I still continued to weep.
This man needed a flower, with its tender grace
And it didn’t matter how small.
I smiled through my tears at his sleeping face,
I was somehow needed after all.
I kissed his big hand and his feverish face,
And I quietly went back outside.
But I’d carefully left in his wide open palm
A white flower with nothing to hide.