|Jul/Aug 2015 Poetry Special Feature|
Photography by Lydia Selk
The Truth about Azaleas
In Chinese culture, the azalea is known
as "thinking of home bush," which is what
it always makes me think of, the white house
we bought from a woman named Whitehouse
who gave us an azalea for housewarming.
Pretty fuchsia pink, that plant, but just try to trim it.
Andromedotoxins in both its leaves and nectar
raise hot welts on your hands in thanks for your labors.
We had teenagers then. It was a familiar feeling.
Only now do I learn that a poison azalea bouquet,
delivered in a black vase, was a well-known
death threat in ancient times. Not a hollow threat
either, even in modernity, since the plant itself
died and precious children followed. Beauty
and death, grown from cuttings, stinging
like hornets, flowering warning: loss and more loss.