Elegy Composed in the New York Botanical Garden

Eugenia Leigh on

Published in Poem Of The Day

Catmint-tubular, lavender, an ointment
to blur the scar, bloom the skin. My mouth has begun
the hunt for words that heal.

In the garden, I am startled by a cluster
of sun-colored petals marked, Radiation.
Piles of radiation. Orange radiation, huddled together

like families bound by a hospital-bright morning.
And behind them: a force of yuccas
called Golden Swords. A bush or mound

of sheath-like leaves sprouting from a proud center.
And isn't that the plot?
First the radiation, then the golden sword.

I remember, incurably,
your mother. The laughter that flowered
from her lips. I'm sorry I have no good words

to honor her war. It crumbled me to watch you
overwhelmed by her face
in the daffodils outside your childhood home.

About this poem
"The first draft of this poem was written when a herd of Kundiman fellows was released into the New York Botanical Garden and told to gather poems. We hear often that poetry is not nonfiction-that poems are allowed to bend reality as they're led-but what troubles me most about this poem is that I don't remember whether the flowers outside that home were, in fact, daffodils."
-Eugenia Leigh

About Eugenia Leigh
Eugenia Leigh is the author of "Blood, Sparrows and Sparrows" (Four Way Books, 2014). She is a Ph.D. student at the University of Illinois at Chicago's program for writers and lives in Chicago.

The Academy of American Poets is a nonprofit, mission-driven organization, whose aim is to make poetry available to a wider audience. Email The Academy at poem-a-day[at]poets.org.

(c) 2014 Eugenia Leigh. Originally published by the Academy of American Poets, www.poets.org. Distributed by King Features Syndicate


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