Summer Reads 2020

City of Flowers

Oregon’s poet laureate ruminates on growth, rebirth—and swallowing bees

By Anis Mojgani August 1, 2020 Published in the August 2020 issue of Portland Monthly

Image: Molly Mendoza

You remember how it was 

like the floorboards of our houses

had soaked the tears or sweat out of the dirt we stood on

a monsoon of our wishes come arriving in a different form.

Murky the water was, too rich with the loam for us to drink away

though many of us tried, and died doing so. And the blossoms, so thirsty 

were now radiant from their gluttony, some days 

a prayerful sweetness that we convinced ourselves

we did not deserve and on other days, some sort of cosmic joke—

their perfume filling our sagging waterlogged hallways.

But course with the flowers, came those bees. Buzzing all day

and night barely sleeping we were. So many of them—

we’d breathe deeply and swallow a fistful, so often

’til the stinging on the inside felt just a thing, like heartburn

and the stings on the outside just another part of the skin.


And the city never came to take care of any of it but then 

as soon as we left—and course we left, those that could

cuz how can a person live with a living room

made of a muddy river and how can a people live in a place 

where there are more chrysanthemums than people

and more bees than red petals collecting in the drains

so more stings than not, so of course

all of us that could leave did and after we did 

then the city came out and killed all those bees. 


Which means also there ain’t no flowers cuz no flowers if no bees 

but of course all the new people living here now together they wonder 

“Where all my flowers go? I pay my taxes”

Where indeed.


So the city they come back in and for all the new people

they put all these fake flowers in the ground. And 

they even water em. Water. For flowers that ain’t even real.

And they all happy with that. I guess—

flowers that ain’t real and water that is

and spending tax money they say to pay 

for folks who brown like the earth we pour our water into

to travel back to where they once lived

in order to water flowers that was made in a machine

that don’t even need no water

taking care of growing things that don’t grow

for people that won’t grow anything 

for themselves none neither anyway

just so they can say there ain’t nothing strange about this, this

how it always been

and look how the flowers look

like it’s always springtime.

—Anis Mojgani, Oregon poet laureate 

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