When the flower shop door jangles the women behind the counter glance up together, six of them all working in sync & laughing amidst the waiting piles of roses & gerbera daisies. Their shop feels like somebody’s kitchen after the screen door has banged & they say oh it’s you, friend. Come in. Leave the biting wind outside. Sometimes to write the right words to give with flowers is difficult. The mourners rip up scratched out cards & start their messages over again. They try so hard to get it right. Remember Monet in Paris after the war bringing his waterlilies to the French? In L’Orangerie’s big oval rooms, floor to ceiling Nympheas surround the public in an aquarium of flowers and water. Outside the museum walls lie gray gravel paths & espaliered fruit trees, granite-blue Seine slipping under the bridges :: inside, Parisians weary from the ghastly war, so many sons & fathers dead in the trenches & the fields, walked into cerise & lemon-colored lily blossoms, no borders, water-light. To enter the gallery, one is instructed to stand in a portal room then step forward with peace. Today in L’Orangerie tourists with selfie sticks cruise the rooms everyone taking their own little movies but in the crowd a man who has traveled many thousand miles just to be there might start crying loudly with the paintings around him & instead of shushing him the other patrons pull out their handkerchiefs & blot their eyes in agreement & weep bewildered together among shimmering blooms. Cut loose in time. Back in the flower shop a song from long ago plays over the sound system & all
the flower women sing along raising their heads to us in greeting
Katharine Whitcomb is the author of four collections of poems: The Daughter’s Almanac (University of Nebraska Press/The Backwaters Press, chosen by Patricia Smith as the winner of the 2014 Backwaters Prize), Lamp of Letters (Floating Bridge Press, winner of the 2009 Floating Bridge Chapbook Award), Saints of South Dakota & Other Poems (Bluestem Press, chosen by Lucia Perillo as the winner of the Bluestem Award), and Hosannas (Parallel Press). She is a professor at Central Washington University and lives in Ellensburg, Washington.