|Apr/May 2005 Poetry Special Feature|
My great-grandmother painted daisies.
My grandmother painted magnolias.
My mother paints red flowers with sunburned edges.
The city covered my neighborhood
with geraniums. They line the streets
like carnival wagons, temporal
but luminescent. What's essential
is their bloody fists, their demand
to be seen, to embarrass me
with hyperbole. In the stucco
colored sky, a mustache of moon
promises to turn out their light.
It's too late—I'm already blistered.
A family photo framed by geraniums.
Their color is revolutionary.
I should've seen it coming—
my father's dissidence, his self-exile.
But he stands there smiling, still
a family, his red comrades next to him
whispering disappear. He's blowzy
like them, too ruddy in the face to hide.
A hilltop house overlooking Lake Zurich,
sailboat lights for stars, a town
across the water called Kiss Night.
My mother thought geraniums
were her friends. Potted promises
framed the door. They were everywhere—
window box wishes, garden guarantees.
Traitors. He walked in the door
one day, giving the geraniums
a thumbs up, and for the first time,
announced the divorce. The movers
are coming tomorrow—I'm sorry.
She stole his crystal Jonah in the Whale,
when all she really wanted was a faithful
red flower. Decades later, she gave it back.
All those years in the belly of the whale,
and not a geranium in sight.