Skip to main content

The Four O’Clocks

ISSUE:  Winter 1979
Late afternoon in the Union bar.
The owner says if we eat his hamburgs
we’ll join his wife up on old Boot Hill, might as well
take the onions. Back in Ohio, where they paint
garages shocking pink and pave the yard with bottle caps,
the faded memory of flowers turns out blue,
though I read somewhere they are really red, white, or yellow.
A neighbor said they open right on schedule every day, but I
my child self, sad-eyed, knob-kneed, waiting forever
as green leaves spread over the red side of the house,
black seeds lie down on the concrete driveway.
Mother dim behind the screen door, plump, gingham apron.
From her stories I know she is a princess,
Pharaoh’s daughter who slums to care for me.
We plant some four o’clocks and wait.
From that lesson I learn failure, mystery, uncertainty.
Doesn’t matter what the flower really looks like:
I say blue with yellow stamens. My mother told me,
in the long nights when I howled at shadowy ghosts or
to look harder and see them for what they really were. I stared
at what I thought she was so hard that in memory she is
what I say. I know, I know my mother loved me, the way
a childless woman might smother a puppy, suckle or rape the
   odd stranger,
yet still I grew up pinching the cheeks of snapdragons to make
   them yawn,
yearning to see so clearly that even the stars would back off in
as I crept into the blind night with my checkered knapsack,
   my ill will.


This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

Recommended Reading