Geraniums

It begins with the scent of geraniums,
bitter and hard,
and my grandmother telling me not to touch
because she is afraid I will pick them
and me wondering how this flower
(so harsh in my nose)
could be the crown of her patio —
though she was not much of a gardener,
as I would come to learn.

It begins with the scent of geraniums,
bitter and glassy,
and the old man at the end of the street
wading through his dark, wide garden,
surrounded by thick, geranium-soaked air
and a wild assortment of snapdragons
(which we each pick
so we can make the dragon growl),
and bending over the fence
to hand us our annual maple saplings —
which we plant with due care
and which our fathers
will inevitably mow over.

It begins with the scent of geraniums,
bitter and ancient,
as I pot up the front entryway.
The sun burns my arms,
my eyes squint,
and I look up to wonder
how I have come to depend
on that sharp perfume
as the welcome oracle
of so many ambivalent possibilities.

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