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Tuesday, March 01, 2022


by Susan Gubernat

Tanks roll in again, wheels oiled by the slick substances
of nightmare. Across the street, thousands of miles away,
the flower stall opens this morning, spreads its wares
all the way to the curb. Yellow tulips, blue hydrangea.
The flower seller, Ukrainian, must know her business,
as she knows her politics. Once I thought she was 
Russian. I’ve eaten my mistake again and again, buying
her flowers in all seasons: poinsettia, Easter lilies—
expensive but they survive beyond the supermarket brand.
Around her shop the stores have been looted of jewels,
of toothbrushes and toilet paper, but no one has stolen
her orchids, their cat mouths yawning, or the tiny cacti 
in small clay vessels a child might hold up, beg for,
as if she could carry home a star. I don’t have words
for the shopkeeper. I want to bury my face in her shoulder
and weep or cry out. Instead, we talk about how dried
protea blooms can last. You string the fresh ones upside
down. Like bodies of tyrants, I think, in the marketplace.

Susan Gubernat's most recent book The Zoo at Night won the Prairie Schooner prize and was published by the University of Nebraska Press. She lives in San Francisco.