Pick the real flower:
Wait a minute. They’re both ‘real’, aren’t they? You can see them, feel them, smell them. Smell them? But which is the living specimen? The one that breathes, eats, and dies? In poetry, we can explore what is concrete and what we believe is reality. Sometimes the truth is better explained by poking around the edges of reality.
In this poem of mine, first published by the Dead Mule Society of Southern Literature in 2009, I attempt to describe how flowers, in their various symbolic guises, measure our lives.
ONE SUCH NEIGHBORHOOD
Last week, I was in the neighborhood of
dead flower arrangements—
carnations from Mother’s Day,
singed and brown at the edges,
all bordering streets made from
square after square of yesterdays.
Rows of vases
with murky water
lined up their ceramic and crystal houses
next to the blocks of weeks:
each day a different color,
blue, green, yellow,
some red with jagged writing and
rough like garden furrows.
I passed a park of silver bowls
which held crisp, dried petals,
potpourri sweet and pungent
pulled from roses clutched at dance recitals,
their ribbons lifting in the wind.
I sat for a while on pillows of plant food
and watched water pitchers
fill and empty themselves
in the stagnant creek.
On my way home,
I got lost on the road
of birthday bouquets,
their balloons having drifted away
or collapsed and puddled near the curb,
and found my way to the end of town,
following the straight weeks of days,
like pavers in a garden,
on which I visited the funerary sprays
before I disappeared into the hills.