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‘Mr. Dobson & the After-Life of Carnations’ by Wong May

‘Mr. Dobson & the After-Life of Carnations’ by Wong May

Mr. Dobson & the After-Life of Carnations by Wong May

If there are secrets

A man can keep, apart from Death

He believes in them. From the florist’s dump

of rotting ferns & tall boxes marked “Holland”

He picked carnations, discreetly


to undo

The wires, stem by stem, leaching

out the stopped blood the torsion

In sand; count 9 weeks

& they open discreetly

Cogwheels catching cogwheels

As in a clocksmith’s dream of heaven

so many military decorations!

… Unwound, they must take up all time,

From the park-attendant’s wheelbarrow

there are spares, strays, seconds

Lobelia, alyssum, snapdragon

& the gross tobacco plant

That holds its breath all day

To breathe at night

Like a perfume factory in Spain.

Another gift from the public garden,

Transplanted it wafts upstairs

Summer nights meaning you do the same.

Isn’t holding your breath

a feat like happiness?

At length you see little stars, little fishes.

“If it grows”, he said

“It is a cutting.”

He kept 2 families & lived to the end

in a basement with a woman

Who received the families

At church that day

Like one in the safe-keeping of a trance.

& she was unharmed.

Nor is the garden rolled up after him like a rug,

pansies fade in & out,

Making cat- faces,

such dazed looks

Human, we must love

till we die.

A garden of the held-breath then

one draws a long last, count ten

it spans like a rainbow

The negative of some paragraph

The flowers each in a different shade of dark —

He believes in them.

Picasso’s Tears by Wong May is now available from Octopus Books.


Richard Chiem

About The Author

Richard Chiem

Richard Chiem is the author of You Private Person. He lives in Seattle, WA.

Real Pants

Good hair, crooked gait

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