Re: [Secondhand]

My terminally ill writer friend wrote me
in an email, Three weeks of struggle
and not a single good poem. I can’t stand

this shit. I wrote back he should
go out into nature and write
about the city, or delve into the city

and write about nature—that it always works
for me. Find a daisy in a jar
on the sill of some old café or bar

and write about that. Write about
how the flower was gasping
for want of air, how Lady Esmeralda

would water it each morning with the dew
collected from her stained glass
ashtray, the mottled soil sickly,

soiled. Write about how the flower retreated
into itself like an anemone
or child, but how one afternoon

it seemed to make a comeback, the petals
not bright but a sort of off-white, the brown stem
stiff as a bamboo toothpick, thick

as the half-smoked cigarette beside it.
Write about how years later it died,
which, in flower time

was about a week later, its bald head
leaning toward a brighter day
somewhere near the ground, listening

for just the right words to say. Write about
how a couple of weeks after that,
when there was only the soil

and the cigarette standing in it,
it gave you this poem, it gave you
its cancer.

Write about that.


Grant Quackenbush is from San Diego. His poetry has been published in the San Diego Poetry Annual, Rattle, and is forthcoming in The Eunoia Review. He is a first-year MFA student in poetry at the University of California, Irvine.

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