Edible flowers might be colorful,
but this one sports its G.I. olive drab
— Who’s it trying to fool?
It is a nymph that some god wants to grab
and have his way with, I explain. She scorns
his lust; and when he sees he’s met his match,
he turns her to a flower, covered with thorns
to keep her other lovers out of reach.
You say You made that up. You say That’s sick.
You say The things men think of are so cruel.
Under the bamboo steamer there’s a slick
of emerald green water. I watch you pull
the petals off, each with a warm knot
of paler flesh left hanging at the root.
A ‘loves me, loves me not’ sort of endeavor,
I say, but you don’t laugh. It hasn’t been
that long since liking me for being clever
stopped being enough for you. Sly pangolin,
endearingly nearsighted, belly rolled
up a spiky ball—that’s how I keep
my wits about me.
I notice how you’ve polled
the petal-points an inch, and how you scrape
each leaf with your incisors, the two
small grooves they leave. It makes me sick to watch.
— You’re awfully quiet today. What’s wrong with you?
I want to tell you what . . . but there’s a catch,
deep in the throat, that stops me, makes me choke
the words back, crack another pointless joke.
© Craig Arnold