It was a town so quiet, the mailman was empty-handed.
Why then nostrils of bloom, breathing so pinkly?
Even the town crier had taken a vow of silence.
Why at the house’s edge, beneath a wide-eyed window?
A pink so dense it begged hiding. Unsiblinged, unmated,
the moon might find one rocking in a hedge of pink.
It was a town clothed from head to toe: skirts draped
its ankles, sleeves were buttoned tight at its wrists.
So why a shimmered curtain, less a curtain than a sheer
view of two figures on a bed, eyes affixed to a blue flickering?
Blooms pink as baby mice, soft as tiny hands, cluttering
the bush as if in celebration. Why a town that never smiled?
A figure lifted an arm to the nightstand, drank long a glass
of amber. Blue light flickered to the metronome of drama.
Nobody touched nobody. Invisible figures mowed lawns
soundlessly. The halls, everywhere, blue and institutional.
Where cars never drove with their windows rolled down.
A town where anything might happen, except for me.
The flowers, only the flowers had hearts. Even birds
pretended, their beating of wings mechanized by meanness.
Except for the petals that touched my fingers, except
for the little oceans I viewed their pinks through,
except the tongue that was my nose, the whiskers
I wore as I crawled on my knees through yards,
beneath the fresh fingers of azalea blooms, beneath
a window that flickered blue, to where my smile grew.
Azaleas was first published in The Kenyon Review, Summer 2004.
Poem, copyright © 2005 by Cate Marvin
Appearing on From the Fishouse with permission
Audio file, copyright © 2005, From the Fishouse