“Where Squaws Harvested Flowers For Food” by Kathy O’Fallon

Kathy O’Fallon

WHERE SQUAWS HARVESTED FLOWERS FOR FOOD

I came here to be quiet,
to unlearn clever thoughts
and study the genesis of flowers:
the raspberry milk thistle
prickly and good for hangovers,
the purple nightshade, narcotic
but poisonously fatal,
and the western blue flax—the ordinary.

But in these High Sierras of bright, clean sky
where the eyes squint and the ears pressurize,
clover begins to resemble the penis head,
conifers—Irish peasant skirts,
and the rumble of the river that feeds them
an ancient Mayan drum,

and then the men I’ve loved and cursed
demand new names of their own:
Mountain Pride with its five stamens—
the man who blinded me with lust,
Buckbean who burped beer in his sleep,
and Sierra Corydalis, flowers pointing
in different directions—the one who couldn’t
decide whether to stay or leave,

and I become
the rare
fringed grass-of-parnassus,
whose mythical mountain genus
housed the nine muses of poem and song.

from Rattle #24, Winter 2004