Apr/May 2016 Poetry Special Feature

Elegy for My Hydrangea Bush

by Gina O'Neill

Image courtesy of the British Library Photostream

Elegy for My Hydrangea Bush

The doctor gave me tulips:
a countdown in floral form,
they were gentle, adorned with thick
waxy petals, but soon I foresaw

the stems stripping down
in curlicues, and the soft, pink
edges hinging
upon a brittle ovary, barely.

This is what I fear for my hydrangeas:
death and birth intertwined,
for when it's time to clip the flowers,
most leave the bush for dead.

But, like spring, I am hopeful
the earth will crack and crumble
then renew itself,
fresh and fertile next season.

And let's not forget the flowers.
I'm talking about the commitment of perennials:
daisies that break through frozen ground
and their sister weeds in an untended patch.

Gardeners wear gloves,
and so do doctors.
They plunge their fingers inside our thighs—
into the soil—
and their hands are protected
from the vulnerability
of flesh boring flesh
and earth sprouting leaves.

Is that why it's called a perineum?

The beauty, perpetual, of hydrangeas
can be a burden: how we await
their return, even though they are most splendid
when passing on.


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