It took me two days to write a flower poem, though this is not my first attempt to use the meaning of flowers as the floor of a poem. I was about ready to cheat and throw in an old favorite, but I woke this morning with a story on my mind. It runs longer than most of my poetry and of course, it hasn’t had time to gel, or gestate in a drawer for several days. But the children in my poem are raw little urchins and they insist of telling the story their way. So Be it! NapoWriMo prompt eleven, a poem in which one or more flowers take on specific meanings..
Bells ring citywide, overlapping
in circles of sound, while the noon whistle
at the canning factory on the coast
sends a shrill counterpoint soaring
above a thunderclap of wings
as pigeons rise and wheel en masse
above every plaza in town.
We dart from hiding places
between the narrow aisles
of the flower market, girls
pulling skirts into pouches,
boys stooping and grabbing
Loose petals, pink, peach, scarlet, yellow, white,
catch in curls, cling to sweaty skin, coat bare feet
in brilliant color.
A tiny sepulcher in a corner of the graveyard
offers shelter. The mermaid with a split tail,
carved in stone above the doorway,
smiles welcome as we slip inside.
An unadorned tomb offers a tabletop
on which to sort our floral gleanings.
We divide them in piles– dahlias,
orchids, honeysuckle, morning glory
sunflowers, yucca blooms, datura
passion flowers and marigolds
The boys run into church and steal
holy water to refresh our blooms,
we say a prayer over each kind,
baptizing them with new names:
Adoration of the Mother of Fishes,
Daughter of Rivers,
Blessings of the Bee,
Wild Porpoise of the Western Waves.
Twining them round ankles, wrists
and waists, we braid them in our hair,
crown ourselves with wreaths
and set out two by two for the sea.
The song we sing is old,
in language we do not understand,
but the chant entrances, snares
us in a waking dream of watery realms:
Yemaya assessu; Assessu Yemaya
Yemaya Olodo; Olodo Yemaya
The eyes of our feet
guide us safely
from asphalt, to dirt,
dirt to sand until
cold ocean waves
return us to ourselves.
Joyfully, we strip each other
of flowers, lay them gently
on the out-going tide,
sing them out to sea,
Waters laps our ankles,
as loving as a mother washing
the feet of her children
before kissing then goodnight.
Sand turns pink as sun’s red disk
melts swiftly into sea, each of us
reborn into radiance.
Green flash comes as Yemaya’s
final good night kiss. Emblazoned
on each forehead, faint outline of a starfish
marks us Hers forever after.