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In the poem, I stand behind the counter,
stripping leaves and thorns from long-stemmed roses
flown from Ecuador, tossing them into a pile at my feet.
Leaving only the blooms: the ruffled pink
of “Precious Moments,” the dusky “ Black Magic,”
“Wanted,” its crisp, scalloped edge. I don’t care, he says to me
about the men who come to buy the flowers.
What I want to know is what is this womandoing
to the sex organs of these plants?
I am thirty-two, and in love, again, this time
with a man whose name rolls off my tongue
like water. I’m afraid of hope.
A husband gone, a lover buried in the waves.
And what about the men
who buy the dark petals that say
this is how I want to open you. This flower
reminds me of your flower.
I wrap bouquet after bouquet in bright tissue,
give them to boys in frayed jeans,
to businessmen talking on their cell phones,
who walk away, bearing the weight
of these intricate ambassadors, these small failures,
bred, not for fragrance, but their ability to endure.
There are pinpricks of blood
along the flesh of my palm.
There is so much we cannot say.
Copyright 2020 Danusha Laméris. First published in The American Poetry Review. Included in Vox Populi by permission of the author.
Danusha Laméris lives in Santa Cruz, California. The Moons of August, her first book, was chosen by Naomi Shihab Nye as the winner of the 2013 Autumn House Press Poetry Prize. Her second book, Bonfire Opera, is coming out with University of Pittsburgh Press in spring 2020.