What I had, I spent on flowers.

illustration of a vase of hydrangeas with a bookshelf in the background, an egg and shells and a brass horse on the table in front of the vase.
Art by Kristina Closs

Last Will and Testament 

by Chiyuma Elliott

This twelvemonth, 
the birds sat on the housetops;
the little minutes were four thousand books. 
On the table, such odd trifles
kept your attention. Young lovers met; 
some of what you heard 
was the sea. Come away.
Let the grey paper confer 
with the eggshells
and the brass horse. 
Let summer wash its face
and stand in the pasture 
and gather up its green buttons. 
For pleasure its flowers on the table, 
and you are non plus
What I had, I spent on flowers. 

from Blue in Green

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I could see the points on the flower’s stately crown soften and curl inward

The poetry and prose of Ross Gay (1974-) so often reminds me of all the beauty and joy in this intense world we navigate every day.

Art by Kristina Closs

“Wedding Poem”

for Keith and Jen

Friends I am here to modestly report
seeing in an orchard
in my town
a goldfinch kissing
a sunflower
again and again
dangling upside down
by its tiny claws
steadying itself by snapping open
like an old-timey fan
its wings
again and again,
until, swooning, it tumbled off
and swooped back to the very same perch,
where the sunflower curled its giant
swirling of seeds
around the bird and leaned back
to admire the soft wind
nudging the bird’s plumage,
and friends I could see
the points on the flower’s stately crown
soften and curl inward
as it almost indiscernibly lifted
the food of its body
to the bird’s nuzzling mouth
whose fervor
I could hear from
oh 20 or 30 feet away
and see from the tiny hulls
that sailed from their
good racket,
which good racket, I have to say
was making me blush,
and rock up on my tippy-toes,
and just barely purse my lips
with what I realize now
was being, simply, glad,
which such love,
if we let it,
makes us feel.

from Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude

Will they take root here?

Thinking about gardens, gardeners, the stories of plants, and the passers-by as the weather warms and everything begins blooming….

image of garden plants and hands being held across a garden
Illustration by Kristina Closs

“The Couple Next Door” by Suji Kwock Kim (1969-)

tend their yard every weekend,
when they paint or straighten
the purple fencepickets canting
each other at the edge of their lot,

hammering them down into soil
to stand. How long will they stay
put? My neighbors mend their gate,
hinges rusted to blood-colored dust,

then weave gold party-lights with
orange lobster-nets & blue buoys
along the planks. So much to see
& not see again, each chore undone

before they know it. I love how
faithfully they work their garden
all year, scumbling dried eelgrass
in fall, raking away mulch in spring.

Today the older one, Pat, plants
weeds ripped from a cranberry-bog.
Sassafras & pickerel, black locust
& meadowsweet, wild sarsaparilla,

checkerberry, starflower. Will they
take root here? Meanwhile Chris waters
seeds sown months ago. Furrows
of kale, snap-bean, scallion break

the surface, greedy for life. Muskrose
& lilac cast their last shadows. Is it
seeing or sun that makes them flicker,
as if they’ve vanished? They shake

like a letter in someone’s hand.
Here come the guys from Whorfs
(“Whores”) Court, walking their dog
—also in drag—to the dunes.

I miss seeing Disorient Express
(a.k.a. Cheng, out of drag) walk by,
in tulle & sequins the exact shade
of bok choi. He must have endured

things no one can name, to name only
KS, pneumocystis, aplastic anemia.
I remember he walked off his gurney
when the ambulance came, then broke

his nurse’s fingers in the hospital
when he tried to change his IV line,
wanting to live without meds. Zorivax,
Ativan, leucovorin? I don’t know.

Pat & Chris pack down the loose dirt.
I’ll never know what threads hold
our lives together. They kiss, then fall
on the grass. I should look away but don’t.

_

from Notes from the Divided Country