Still Life with Bouquet, Golden Spade (out of frame)

Image of white flowers on gray background.

Credit: Courtesy of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History

Jennifer Packer, Say Her Name, 2017, oil on canvas, 48 x 40

“I paint flowers so they will not die.”

—Frida Kahlo

we be bouquets, be green, leaves

ethereal, be wildweeds, be lamb’s-quarter, be day

-flowers’ cool blue, be hue busting

up bleak blur. we evening primrose, morning

glory and larkspur, left-bent like sunlight

thru hickory shagbark, schooled in all the ways

of the soil, the ways of lowdirt. we the garden and the gold

-en spade used to dig. we the tiny lurking mantis

veiled in verdure, praying underblade. lately it seems

all there is to do is wait. and wait we will. we out

-will winter, bide out the gnaw of blight strikes, we outroot

the storm’s walled eye, our spine-stems straight, sepals

unsnapped, petals parted but unshed. we hardy anthurium,

philodendron, monstera, we sing silky with cordiform

tongues sweating rosin, we bleed. we blood. we

be bloodied as thorns, we be blushed as trumpet

lily, as Damask rose. things of beauty—we.

we the bolls survived the gin, we the clouds

in our own sky, the birds too. we be dandelion,

be red jasmine, be jazz. we flush

just once, like sweet four o’ clock in June, buds

unfist for a foreday’s bloom. we hear

sorry swoons: “how lovely. how quick they die. Die

so soon.

 

 

 

 

Note: this poetic form is a riff on Terrance Hayes’ Golden Shovel, which takes the last word of each of its lines from a Brooks poem—this Golden Spade uses the words from Brooks’ “We Real Cool” progressively later in each line to create a diagonal throughline.