The Language of Flowers

Judith Skillman


Too fragile for words, the Victorians made arrangements
for each feeling. A Mary’s Garden
of petals, sprays, bouquet. Bell.

If I had any passion leftover,
I would retract each patented sentence
as if it were part of a sweater knitted
of dropped stitches that had to be redone.
Not a word left. Just knit one purl one.

I would hide my vows in corners
of a hedged maze. Find my way by reading
body language. Enough conversation,
qualifications, reparations, explanations—
more than plenty. A cornucopia.

Take care to find the tulip that means
There’s sunshine in your smile, the glad that says,
you have beautiful eyes, Herald Spring.

If we regifted one another
with flowers, we could finally decorate
this house gone dull and dry as cacti.
You might adorn my hair. I would finally
know how to go about making choices:

clothes, jewelry, trips, and china. Who said
the Victorians where shy and staid? They knew
the difference between blissful pleasure
and delicate pleasure, between thank you
for the lovely time, au revoir
, and good-bye.



Judith Skillman’s new book is Premise of Light, Tebot Bach. She is the recipient of grants from Artist Trust & Academy of American Poets. Her poems have appeared in Seneca Review, Cimarron Review, Zyzzyva, Nasty Women Poets & other journals & anthologies. Visit


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