Calla Calling

jasmine shuggie and l's violets practice nondually

The guy who works at the fancy flower shop on the Friday afternoon shift is so bored he bites his fingernails and tries to spit them from the desk into the pots on display.  I spot him doing this through the glass door of the shop; he seems to be three for three.

I want to bring a Calla Lily home for M, who is visiting.  Between fingernails, the flower shop guy tells me how to manage the single blossom: the Calla Lily needs to be placed in only two inches of water.  So the stem, incapable of absorption, won’t rot.  Outside, February is brightening, and the little buds suggest what’s next.


The Calla lily is a fire red that fades to orange, then white, and then green, where it becomes stem.

AO dies lying on the couch with her feet up. This has surprised everybody in the poetry community.  Even the couch, I suspect, was surprised to have someone pass on it like that.

Death: some deranged punctuation?  And a fingernail looks just like a comma.

Rosy Corpse

One death, however removed, invites back all the other deaths.

In my dream, L’s corpse is lying in savasana on our parlor floor.  Every day, I get down on my knees and embrace her.  Her body has begun to crumble.  Her feet are reabsorbed into her tibia, leaving two clean stumps.  Despite these changes, which I note carefully, I don’t stop the daily practice of embrace.

Decay and bloom play rock, paper, scissors

I get up from hugging her.  Her body twitches.  In a moment of convoluted dream-logic, I have to pause: Can a corpse do this?  No: a corpse cannot do. Her body twitches and flops again, as if to defy category.  I think about the phenomenon of Chickens after their heads get cut off.  A certain amount of time postmortem and the body can still…well, do the chicken.

I retreat to the den.  Dad is sitting at his desk.  L rises and follows me in.  She is benign but she wants something.  I gesticulate at Dad—Hello? Help!

L extends her arms to me, for me.

What do you want? I ask.

I want to be loved, she says, as clear as anything.  I think of her on Radio New Zealand, at 102 years old, the last year of her life, archly regaling the host: Well, if all those people that come to read to me stopped coming, I wouldn’t DIE.

Pshaw, I want to say.  But who could say that?  And because all I want is to love her again, we are as good a match as peanut butter and jelly.

Since I am slowly being cornered, I reach out and hold her. It is the least we can do for the dead, when they entangle themselves in the deep strands of our imagination. She dashes out of the house.

I wake up before dawn.  The photo of L lying in state in her nightgown is propped against the wall on her monogrammed clipboard.  I recall that night, five long months ago, when the full moon hollered over Times Square and L hollered right back, dressed up and ready for a date with the Great Nothing.

True to form, when the undertaker entered her apartment the next day and saw her corpse lying there, surrounded by the fat, unembarrassed red and white roses, he exclaimed: For lack of a better word, she looks so…alive!

Only L could get a compliment from an undertaker.

the last word is no word at all

Lily Loot

My mother likes to have flowers around the house in the winter. It’s like forcing the hand of spring.  I go into the Apple Deli to buy her a bunch of tiger lilies—the flowers that throw the biggest pollen tantrum as they die.  She finds their smell tantalizing.

As I am paying, declining to have them wrapped in even more decorative paper, a woman storms into the store, heading straight for the open refrigeration cases, and looks accusingly at the Stoneyfield products, her hands on her hips.

Your yogurt selection is TERRIBLE! She fumes at the top of her lungs.

The tiger lilies blush a sickly orange.  The cashier, a stout Korean, makes change for me with one eyebrow raised.

You have to get SOME NORMAL YOGURT! She says.  This is pathetic. Where is all the REAL yogurt?

She storms out again.

Lilies, as flowers that grace many funerals, are used to being around unseemly and unpredictable shows of emotion.

Then the cashier laughs.  Her laugh sounds like coins jangling.  That lady comes in everyday and shouts at the yogurt, she says. There are so many stores, why doesn’t she just go to another store?

Her pudgy grandson is standing beside her.  As she looks out over the display of mushy avocados, unseasonal fruits, neat cases of packaged vegetables, he keeps taking ginger candies, unwrapping them, and placing them inside his mouth.  I have yet to see him chew, or even slightly move his jaw.

Did you ever ask her what yogurt she is looking for? I suggest.

The proprietor shakes her head.  No, she says.  No, no.

The lilies bow their perfumed heads in tandem.  Yes, yes, yes. It’s the only word they know

I think of Joseph Campbell in tweed Jacket, the tattered copy of Ulysses a fixture under his arm, traveling in India.  His mystical impulse lit up like a beeper.  When he encountered the holy Swami, his question came up of its own accord, as if acid reflux from an indigestible world: How do we bear a world in which there is so much suffering?

And the Swami: People like you and I, we must say yes to all of it.

if yes were a direction


Sometimes, I cannot figure out what stops us from calling a spade a spade.  As if I should pretend you don’t suffer, and you should pretend I don’t suffer.  As if we should pretend we don’t look into the same dark, when night falls, or the same brightness, when day returns.

twisted sister has eyes in the back of her head

At the shoreline in Prospect Park, the big swans, icons of winter, are badgering whoever dares to visit the lake.  They have learned to want bread and it makes them aggressive.  The ducks congregate where the freeze is incomplete, a slice of liquid as aberrant on the stiff turf as a rosebush in February.  Together, the birds honk irritably for the crappy sandwich bread, puffy and synthetic as shoulder pads from the eighties.  The long reeds and cattails stand straight up when the wind is still.

even reality has roots

For weeks, the trees have looked to be inverted icicles, and the park is coated in white.  It is as if a great sheet has been thrown over the merry corpse of the earth.  You can see far, when the expressive parts of plants are dormant. The eye, says John O’Donohue, is the mother of distance.

You need a spade to plant a flower.  You need a spade to dig one up.

To obtain understanding, the Buddha exposed himself recklessly to the elements.  This made him, for us, a translator of the elemental.  He’d be sitting here right now, if it were still his era, transfixed by the parade of life in front of him.  And with his butt firmly committed to the ground beneath him, he’d surely feel the trembling of the bulbs and blades, as they discern the time to move towards the light.

time to


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5 Responses to “Flowerful”

  1. saraknowsyou Says:

    Hmmm. No one noticed that I wrote “coma” instead of “comma”? Or perhaps it seemed I was just overextending my metaphor?

  2. Ben Says:

    dude great post. I particularly liked the third part. No reason but I did.

  3. Jamie Says:

    Do you ever wonder about the first person who refused to call a spade a spade? I looked it up and the earliest explanation I encountered references the Macedonians as dullards who lacked the wits to think up any other name for a spade. But what did they call a spade?

    I suppose it doesn’t really matter. The daily embrace matters. What I call a spade is just a tool used to break the surface.

    • saraknowsyou Says:

      Break that surface!

      Macedonia: a rugged, seimically active place? Maybe the Macedonians needed to call a spade something else just to be playful.

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