Poetry | Flowers in odd numbers


By Emily Franklin

In my childhood house,
my mother’s Victory Garden sketches
also on the shelf, watercolors of first
forsythias, chick yellow, pointed crocuses
nosing up—is this the spot? —as though they might
reconsider and sink back below.
Grow it Inside, a manual for seedlings,
hard bulbs, clipped cuttings
(and cells that divide and divide inside me).
No one knows but us.

We read an article about mothers
absorbing their offspring’s DNA.
About mothers passing on decades-old trauma.
So if your great-grandmother escaped,
you did not. Crocus next to rhododendron
(easier to grow than to spell, she’d said).
Give flowers in odd numbers, she’d told us,
Or you will offend your relatives –
And make a lousy bouquet with no
focal point. Most flowers come by oddness
naturally – their petals prime or odd at least.

If my mother is not here, who will show up
to bring me flowers when I am vacuumed out,
cells gone, clean, neat, dark, unseeded?

We lived by the stuff of water at this house:
currents, swells of mackerel, jetties.
When we were children, my mother
walked us in the dark to say goodnight
to the river. She slid her palms across mine
and I did not know of the journals being kept,
the decades-old flowers I would find,
those shrubs of distance,
the looseness of something leaving.

Emily Franklin is the author of numerous novels for adults and for young adults as well as the memoir Too Many Cooks about cooking for and eating with her family. She lives with her husband, four kids, and 160-pound dog outside of Boston.

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