In winter, the lilacs broke.
Licked with ice like jewelry, the branches
too tired to stand fell into the bush’s heart
where we used to make house.
It was hard to know when it fell but later
we’d swear we’d heard the snap.
The snowdrops at the roots didn’t come back
in spring, but they were never good for
picking anyway. Wilted fast.

My mother, she liked flowers in the kitchen.
Friends gave her wall sconces that would tell the season.
Pine twigs and holly,
pussy willow,
crocus, lilac,
yellow iris, sunflower.

I didn’t love bouquets until I forgot the
differences in their smells.

Sometimes she wished she could carry in her
blossoms with remnants of the world on them.
Drops of sun showers.

She gestured to Queen Anne’s Lace,
commented on how lovely its name was,
how fine its tiny flower heads were.
She stopped my hand when I went to pluck it,
pointed to the black insects buried in the folds
of cream with a wrinkle in her brow.

When the blooms died, she washed the brown
water down the sink, chased the smell of age from
the room with vinegar.

Katy Clayton hates these things. Send her an email at

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