Flower Identification

The field guide to flowers tries
to help, offering perfect shots
of pristine flowers at the peak
of color, petals perfectly poised.
Yet when I walk through meadows,
the flowers I see are curled or crumpled,
either not yet or no longer perfectly unfurled,
like an umbrella half-opened or a flag
at half-mast. I try to identify,
to give each a name: hopeless task,
like wading through old black-and-white
photographs stored in cardboard boxes
in the attic, some of them strangely colorized
with pastel pencils. Do you recognize
the faces of your ancestors,
your great-grandparents and so on,
by their features? So it is
with flowers. In photos, the perfectly
fleshed out blossoms each occupy a single frame,
like a stamp, with no contrasting elements.

Imagine the botanist,
camera in hand,
stalking the wild blossom.
The thrill of sighting
the perfect blossom
must delight
like the first bite
of a perfectly ripened apricot.

As I walk, the field of gilia
weeps into the ground,
spending blossoms like pennies
rolling into a fountain.
To the fuzzy fly and bee,
wilted branches of fleabane
must smell as sweet
as any other blossom.
Thistle wears a thick coat
of armor to protect his scrappy blossom,
while the wild rose’s dewclaw
does nothing to obstruct
the rose’s intoxicating fragrance.


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