Winter, 2003

Carmine Giordano


The Courage of Flowers

The petunias on the porch deck railing
kill you each morning in their cedar planters.
They keep coming out white as milk,
pink as skin, and as glorious
as lavender daybreak.
They breathe and sigh perfumes
and please you as you near them
like the laughter of children
like your wife's voice in the next room
like her hand touching you as you walk.
The courage of those flowers:
to live out there
in the world as it is
in the full force of the wind
and the full hot face of the day
and the heartless cold
of the star-and-moonless night!
And then to see them there again at dawning,
bold on their firm green stems
and all those buds waiting
and the slow droop of the petals
as you pinch them back
like an Auschwitz commandant
deciding which shall have a moment more,
which shall die,
and gather a handful, naked and spent,
of those which willingly go
and those which fold and fall
and those which hold on so fiercely
it breaks your heart as you tug
and are surprised to find
you have torn off a stem of a plant
with unopened buds
and felt in your own grip
the force of the fury
that drove it through the soil.

And then you toss them from you
and they fall to the clotted earth beneath the deck
where no one goes
and they lie there crumpled
and you forget them
and they change
and blend into the earth:
the Vernichtung,
the finally solved,
the blank,
the used-to-be,
and you close the patio door
where the flowers continue to grow
and fragrantize the air
and keep you happy about the beauty of life
that seems through the kitchen window
always to be there,
a beauty you can count on,
and take for granted,
and never have to question
or look at so closely.