City of Flowers
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”
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