Flowers in front of a Window | Henri Matisse

The Names of Flowers

The focus of the following poems is the interplay between people, which I think is the only way a person can know what their condition is. Other people are the mirror in which we see ourselves, and the only means by which we can know our own condition, which I do believe is the only condition we can truly know.

This looks a bit like an elephant

o bansky
banksy banksy.
haha – no no no. really
I dont give a shit.
for people
whose art
must be obvious
and brightly minded children
thinking everything
is new.

tell me who he is;
I’ll go on
sipping my coffee.

there was this guy once
in California
living in a watertank,
broke and homeless
as a lost piece of paper
and banksy sprayed
“this looks a bit like an elephant”
on the side
of the tank
and suddenly it was ART.
the guy
had to leave.
sleeps on the street now.

fuck art
and fuck banksy.
a bunch of sloganeering
from some fuck
who can’t even use his art
to not hurt anyone
or even impress
girls and his parents
which is the main reason
the rest of us do it
of course.


our mother
made the calls to family
and roared
all night
like a bull with bad guts,
but when we got in
he was watching tv
and eating slices
of sausage.
I thought you were sick,
I said.
I am
he said
and pulled up the sheets
to show off his dogs breakfast

he’d been throwing up
our mother told me
and when he couldn’t keep
the pills down
I said ok
you’re going to the hospital.

he was to be 21 in 2 months
and was planning a trip to America.
would have died
if they’d waited any longer
to take him in.
I had a hangover
from a bad night
and even with those bandages
he looked better
than I did.

I’ll bring you some books
I said
what do you even say to someone?
it’s always so hard
seeing people

I sat there for a while.
a nurse came with lunch
and some new bandages.
how come whenever you get sick
all the nurses look so much prettier
than when I do?
I asked him.
I don’t know
he said,
maybe because you
aren’t sick?

The names of flowers

is there something important
I’m losing, I wonder,
when I don’t take an interest
in the names of certain things
so much as their feeling
and flavour of colour –
that flowers are all
a waxy touch of petals,
dissolving on your fingers
while I can barely tell
a daffodil from a nasturtium
and know a snowdrop
only because that’s how it looks.

I remember my granddad, telling me
through a cigarette
the names of the different flowers,
all his prize flowers,
and I remember
even then
not listening
looking instead
at the yellows and blazing blues,
whole boxes bursting with melted
butter and red as
bright as blood
and to the touch
melting like moth-dust
leaving my fat
baby hands pink

and I distinctly remember being younger then
and normally I don’t,
but I can remember then
being young
and not knowing what things were called
and listening to my granddad
and not caring
about the names of things
and especially
when he told me about flowers.

D.S. Maolalai has been nominated eight times for Best of the Net and five times for the Pushcart Prize. His poetry has been released in two collections, “Love is Breaking Plates in the Garden” (Encircle Press, 2016) and “Sad Havoc Among the Birds” (Turas Press, 2019)

Twitter: @diarmo1990

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