Thursday, June 21, 2012

Wingless females

I wanted a single flower
in a vase
for the party

I sent the girl to cut
the first peony from the volunteer
on our gravel driveway

she hesitated
wanting to use the big scissors
but not sure where to cut

or how to insinuate herself
into the peony’s wet stalks
its outstretched fists

swollen with small red ants
she looked at me
her face a crumpled tissue.

Here. Look. I said.
I took the kitchen shears
from her small hand

dew on my legs, dirty car
still warm at my back
I reached down into the heart

of the shrub
and cut the stalk long
stripping away extra leaves

with practiced impatience
as a smoker would strip plastic
from a fresh pack:

the bathroom
still needed cleaning

Before going back in
I shook off the dew
and a small brown spider.

Later one of my sisters killed
three ants –
wingless sterile females

called workers –
on the table
and when the party was finished

I saw two ants floating
in the vase
and the peony was as shabby

as the jumbled mass
of factory-made valentines
I’d unearthed that morning

from a drawer,
my daughter’s name

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