Fifth-month Flowers. A Prints Project response from Robyn Ryle.

9 Oct


Fifth-month flowers experienced

He tells her that not everyone knows the language of gardens. Not everyone can read it among the blooms.
In this town, they love columbine, but in the suburb where he grew up, they’re rare. Here the irises are all purple and down the street, they’re yellow. In the south where he married, they love thick borders of a grass that puts out tiny purple flowers in the fall. You will not see it north of the river.
He has thought long and hard about the intricacies of gardens. It’s a lifetime of knowledge he wants to tell her, but sometimes it is hard to remember all the words.

The kosmos, and the modern reports

“Did you see about that poor child?” she asks. He has to nod and pretend. He doesn’t know what she’s talking about. She watches the news. She scrolls through the reports on her phone. She knows all the right things to be afraid of. She knows who’s trying to pull the wool over her eyes. She knows when to answer the phone and when to let it ring.
He walks by her house sometimes. The glow of the television through the window is beautiful, but the stars look better when your breath makes a mist on the night air.

I conn’d old times

She kept in her living room an old ash tray stand. It belonged to her grandmother. He focused on that. He wanted to love her. It was important, even if he wasn’t sure exactly why.
“What was she like?” he asked.
“She was quiet.” She smoothed her hand down over the fabric of her skirt and he knew this was what her grandmother had done as well. He could see it all for a moment in the late afternoon light. The bright, angry beam that fell across the couch and made him have to squint.

I will make poems of materials

“There’s nothing there,” she said. “Sometimes I feel like my skin’s just wrapped around emptiness.”
“I know what you mean.” He touched her wrist. Ran his finger along her palm. No part of them was unchanged. Even the color of her eyes had faded. Sometimes he could see his life as nothing more than a succession of ages his past self could never imagine, reached and then passed. Normal and then gone, like signs fading into the distance.
They had to press long and firm against each other’s skin to feel the warmth that was still there, but they learned well enough.

What the talkers were talking

He thought if she were a girl now, they’d find a syndrome for her. The attention thing or the autism thing. They would zoom in on her with their fine lenses and they would tell her what was wrong.
“What do you see in her?” his sister asked. They were too old for pleasantries, the only members of their family left alive.
He saw in her shiny stones. Dirt tracks across a clean carpet. He saw clouds moving across the sky filled with indifference. He saw anxious glances away when she opened her mouth to speak. He saw the pink inside of her mouth. The orange-ish lipstick she still wore. That he liked her lips best when it was wiped clean at night before she got in bed.
He saw the possibility that both of them could still change. Could still do that slow bend towards another person, even if everyone could hear their bones creak.

The press of my foot to the earth

She left in the spring, before the first crocuses. She told him the winter broke her. She was moving to South Carolina. She would rent a condo close to her son and her grandchildren.
“Is it what you want?” he asked.
“I’m so tired of that question,” she said.

Through me many long dumb voices

She wrote a few letters and it was as if someone else was speaking. He worried she was dead and someone was deceiving him. They were poetry, her words. He compared them to a note she left on his fridge once. “Your trash stinks,” the note read. “Take it out.” The shape of the letters were the same. Perhaps South Carolina made her into someone else when he couldn’t.
“I liked being old with you,” she wrote in her letters. “I liked the match of our wrinkles. I liked the names of the flowers. Viburnum opulus. Tradescantia. Ornithogalum umbellatum. Helianthus annuus.”
She did not say she missed him. She did not ask him to come. “There are flowers here all year long,” she wrote.
He kept the letters in his pocket. He ran his hands across the grass in his garden and knew he was not done with endings yet.




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