the stem, the potato, and us

On the Internet I read
that you can take a rose,
slather the stem in honey,
stick it in a potato,
plant the potato in dirt
and wait


The Internet told me I
could expect a new rose
in time


Now, my husband and I work
at a grocery store —
me with the flowers,
him with the produce, and
we discard rose stems and
fading potatoes every day, so
I told him with a wink that even
though we couldn’t have kids,
we could make a baby this way


And in our eyes I felt the objection
to this, because
what if this silly thing from the Internet
doesn’t work, and our potato rose baby
doesn’t live, and what does that mean?


But I planted it anyway,
and soon the bad potato smelled
so bad I had to set the pot
on the fire escape


But I watered it, and watched,
And the stem remained a stem until
one day it was gone


The pot was tipped over,
The potato was eaten through
by some squirrel with low standards


I guess I am not going to read into that

colorsee


I think when people started telling me
                                          “It’s real”
I did believe them
I thought, I can see that, and
why wouldn’t I believe you

?

Over time, though,
as I kept hearing this story
                                         of being pushed back
                                         or not seen
                                         or spoken for
                                        without consent,

I started to feel something other
than pity
or genuine compassion
or guilt

I started to feel the hair
on my arms stand up
as I realized how
                                         I move with
                                        a wave of history
                                        that carves away at
                                        a rock made of spirits
                                        and bodies

                                        and I (we)
                                        crash against it
                                        again
and again

                                           but I hope this is an analogy
                                            Will it break at the breaking point?

Because I am here,
and I am breaking

I have so much
I know so little                                     

the song behind the noise

Your words are hard here,
and here, and here —
but I cannot get you out of my mind

Your words are kind here,
more than kind —
heartbreaking —
and I cannot get you out of my mind 

I couldn’t if I tried
(it’s the fear)
I heard a few sermons about hell
when I was young
so you will always be
at least a question

…but that fear is part
of the cloud
of anxiety and noise
that surrounds my mind
so I’d like not to focus on it

and I’d like not to focus on sin
or pain
or the groaning earth
or shame

I’d like not to focus
on the hatred
or judgement of man
or the Bible beaters
or the politics (on all the sides)
or the rulers who oppress
or the selfishness of lust
(theirs and mine)

I am trying now to focus:
to close my eyes and listen
because all I hear is noise

noise,

noise…

wait!
I remember the violets
in the grass by the baseball field
where my brother played
how bright and purple they were
when I picked them,

and I hear them

and if I am still,
I can hear my mother singing
and my father plucking strings

I can hear the kindness
of shared grief
I can hear, even, the prayers
for peace and healing
and joy

I can hear those believers
who tell me they don’t know
everything

I can hear the quiet song
that persists in this dark world
— a prayer of love
that forgives —

a gift
of secret beauty
that fills the ocean depths
creating great blue whales
and all their friends and foes 

it’s a thread of hungry beauty
that fills the galaxies
and lingers in the footprints 
of all the tiny bugs
— bright
or slight —
whose strange smallness
and diversity
fuel my curiosity

I hear you

…is it You?

colors f a l l i n g

in the flower shop
i cut and tie and curl
shiny paper ribbon —
bright strands of color
meant for twirling
— nothings, really but
they leave these little wisps of happy
in the edge of your mind
for a second

in the flower shop
i snip the broken blooms
from the African violets
and kalanchoes
and little rosebushes
a few good petals fall
with the bad, lingering
for a moment in my hands

P e t a l s

**I wrote this in October, when sunflowers were in season. Scott likes it better than anything else I’ve written.**

Petals

“Cut the sunflower a little lower – there!”

Jenny listens to her manager and snips the thick stalk

She nestles the bloom into a bed of seeded eucalyptus

Then picks up a stem of pale green hydrangea

And works it in, working, working, as fast as she can

The delivery driver waiting, watching, tapping his fingers on the counter

Trying not to think about the homework

He needs to do when he gets home tonight

Jenny’s hands are flying now, bringing in solidago, spiral eucalyptus,

And rust-colored mums

And she keeps moving the sunflower, which doesn’t seem to want

To stay in the right place

And she tries not to bruise the golden petals

Like the worker on the California farm

Who made the first assault

When she took her knife to the base of the stem

And swept up the bloom to

Add it to her growing bounty of gold

Her name is Ana and she makes less

Than Jenny’s supermarket wage of $9 an hour

When Ana made that first cut,

She was thinking about the milk in her breasts

That needed to be pumped before the day was through

And she was thinking about the sleep she didn’t get

When baby Anita cried all night long

And she was thinking about the petals

Bright, garish, and oppressive in their ubiquity

And yet relentlessly beautiful

And she was careful not to bruise them

As was the bundler in the packaging room

Whose name is Betty and whose wrists were tired

They are always tired

Vern, the Ameri-Cal Floral driver, knew that day 

That he had a long night ahead

The road was not his friend, but it was

Always his companion

And he was not thinking about the petals

Of the sunflower, now wrapped and bundled in a long box

Vern was thinking of his favorite radio show,

“Night Figures,” a speculative show about aliens

That was just about to start

When he revved up the engine

And he was thinking about his next cig,

Which was nestled carefully in its soft box in his left pocket

Vern handed the flower box off to Josie at Floral Distributors, Incorporated

At 3 a.m. this morning,

And Josie, frazzled but hardened in her overnight shift

Handed it off to Steve, the driver, who didn’t like talk radio

But preferred top 40 hits instead

Steve was thinking about how he wanted to maybe go back to school

He was still young, he thought, and maybe he

Could make it in business

Maybe

Steve was thinking about that when he handed the box of sunflowers off

To Jenny at 7 a.m., who smiled

And in her brown eyes he thought he saw the tiredness he felt

And he made a joke about coffee

And she laughed

But it wasn’t funny

And he knew it

The piece is finished now, the sunflower is set

“Just one moment, Alex,” Jenny says,

“And you’ll be on your way.”

She scrawls “You are my baby forever, hope this makes you smile”

On a tiny square of paper

And writes a name and address on a tiny envelope

Amanda, a tired mother of three, opens her door twenty minutes later

She emerges from a cacophony of childish noises

And brushes a blonde curl away from her green eyes

And she blinks at the sunflower

And the hydrangea, and the seeded eucalyptus,

And the rust-colored mums

And the tiny envelope

And she knows that the fight they had last night

Is over now

And she takes the vase

Careful not to bruise the petals

Of the flower she has always thought

To be a little garish, maybe a little too bright

But he can’t be expected

To know that

remember


remember this when you are grown
the feel of mommy’s cheek
the blue, the pink, the golden hues
the simple way you speak

i can whisper this to you
the words will disappear
but still i pray you’ll feel it when
you’re staring down that beer

maybe i can’t hold you then
when they have pushed you down
maybe i’ll be dust and earth
and it feels good to drown

i know that there are wolves out there
that daily life can drag you
i know the screens can numb your mind
i know the boss can nag you

i also know though — as do you —
in this tiny moment
the breeze, the freshness of the clouds
this life
— and power to own it

remembering is nothing more
than my whole heart in yours
i cannot fight your battles, son,
but love can push your wars