After Sylvester bit me

 
 
 
and clawed you

you brought him back to the alcoholic

foster returned him like a defective blender

and I cried while you let out the breath

you’d been holding for those six days of maybes

 

the next day I bought pots of Sweet William

I dug the plants into the boxes that hang

off our deck and patted little bowls

into the dirt around the stems

I wanted them to talk to me but gardeners

recommend deheading

to encourage further flowering

 

Floriology is a means of cryptological communication

through the language of flowers

something I don’t know how to make out

but ever since I learned that lilies mean

death I haven’t liked the smell of them

 

many Victorians carried floral dictionaries

because gifts of flower arrangements were used

to send messages which could not be spoken aloud

the mimosa flower for example represents chastity

I doubt many of those were sent around

 

the meaning of Sweet William is contested

the Victorian dictionary lists its definition

as gallantry while others say it represents the phrase

please don’t give my cat away
 
 
 

Molly Johnsen has an M.A. in English from the Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College. She has also attended The Kenyon Review Writers Workshop. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Anti-Heroin Chic, Calamus Journal, SiDEKiCK, The Birds We Piled Loosely, Virga Magazine, Willawaw Journal and Mortar Magazine.