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(the secret lives of flowers)

Larry D. Thomas

Copyright 2023 by Larry D. Thomas.
All rights reserved.

This is an


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(the secret lives of flowers)













About the Author

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The velvety
of their petals,

as the wings
of bats,
so purpled
with purple

they’re black,
the deadly cold
they flourish in,

little violets
so violent
they gorge
loose soil

with the crushed,
dried blood
of animals.

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It started in darkness,
cracking its bulb,
thrusting a shoot skyward

through the dung of cows
and rotting oxblood
Chinese tallow leaves,

needling its way skyward
through the coarse fabric
of Mexican heather

to bloom in bright sun,
precious herb of Africa
acting this March morning

as if yellow’s absolute,
the only true-blue
color in the world.

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for Lisa


From seed
it grew there
in the shade
of the Bradford pear.

In a Siberia
of mulch and bark,
it grew there
on a lark,

a random accident
of ruffled pink
splotching a canvas of dark
earth tones. On the brink

of risk it grew, branching
its viscid, pubescent
stems this way and that,
a reckless adolescent

soaking up the sun
that by July will kill it,
though for now it thrives
worrying not a whit,

flaunting in the breeze
its delicate mien,
this crumpled, velvet hanky
of a queen.

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A day in early May
is breaking, completely silent
but for the sound of ragged,

emphysematous breathing,
the forced exhalations
of desperate bellows

where they languor
in the partial shade
of a nandina,

where they languor
in the throes of a slow,
slow death from the coming

heat of summer,
their delicate stalks slumped
against a log of treated pine

marred with hints
of inevitable rot,
their valiant blooms

crimson, yellow, bilabiate,
scalding the stagnant air
with the vivid,

fiery breath of dragons.


In a bed of azaleas,
near a border of pine
where cracks ran deep
from summers of torrid sun,
in a godforsaken place
where nothing else would grow,
we planted it.

The first summer
it was but a scraggly clump
of tufted, bleached green leaves
predominantly dead by autumn.
By the second summer
it flourished, baking
in its oven of sun,

waiting patiently
for the middle of July,
for days of hundred-degree-plus heat,
sponging hellfire
just to fatten
the red-orange fist
of its bloom.

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In the dog days of August
it triumphs, ascending
the lower branches
of a mountain laurel

yellowing from the drought.
On elongated stalks
of iridescent lavender,
its five-petaled flowers

of matte bluish-lavender
emerge by the hour
from thin, tubular sheaths.
To whatever brushes

against them passing by,
be it dog, pant leg,
or bare, hairy human calf,
the blooms anchor themselves,

stalk, sheath and all,
by flimsy green barbs
jutting imperceptibly
from their gluey glory,

tenacious as the flukes
of grapnels
dragging a lake
for cadavers.

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Your woody vines
climb the brick wall
like temperature

rising in a fevered
child. The hammers
of another summer,

having crushed petunias
into pulps
of velvety purple,

pound your bracts
into the thinness
of gauzy tissue

though they break not
flapping in the breeze
like victory flags

the color of blood
flowing from the pricks
of your fabled thorns.

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With each percussive wave
of clappers
clanging against the lips
of bells,

they shudder
in first light
and they reel
in the churchyard,

brushed by the habits
of flowing nuns
rushing to Mass.
They shudder

in first light,
with yellow,
these florid

private parts
of diminutive plants
flaunting their little crimes
of public lewdness.

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dazzle the glass shelves
of his greenhouse, luxuriating
in the Latin of their names
he rolls off his tongue easily
as the letters of the alphabet.

Their seventeen-year-old keeper,
both prodigy and star linebacker,
tends them daily before and after
school, football practices, and girls.
He says the first one he saw,

piquing what he knew would be
his lifelong passion, hurling him
toward a doctorate in botany,
was named for and had blooms like
chunks of red meat.

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Your blooms are orangish
red resembling scarlet.

Fake, you evidence
contribution to funds

for disabled war veterans.
With your seeds

we top our breads,
rolls, cakes and cookies:

with your milky liquid,
elasticize the surgeon’s glove.

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Larry D. Thomas


a member of the Texas Institute of Letters and the 2008 Texas Poet Laureate, has published numerous award-winning and critically acclaimed collections of poetry, including As If Light Actually Matters: New & Selected Poems (Texas A&M University Press, 2015). His Web site address is

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