SWWIM publishes, celebrates, & promotes women, women-identifying & Femme-presenting writers through a Miami-based reading series & the online poetry journal SWWIM Every Day.

The Chrysanthemums. Liège, 1968

First marriage, first party, first apartment.

I invited our boss the principal, and his wife,

 

both from the States, who I wished would

ask us over but who never did, so that

 

sometimes I cried after lunch in the bathroom

at school. On a concrete ledge beside the bed

 

in the one-room apartment, I placed

candles and a potted white chrysanthemum,

 

marked down at Delhaize, where I bought

haché de boeuf for my special meatloaf

 

and red-black wine in a plastic bottle.

At seven, when the guests arrived, I started

 

cooking the meatloaf and making apple pie.

In the pocket-sized kitchen, I finished the pie

 

and fixed the salad as my husband and guests

drank that wine, gazing despondently

 

out the window at the barges on the Meuse.

We ate at half past ten. The meatloaf

 

was a failure, the hardboiled eggs baked

in the meatloaf had turned rubbery and gray,

 

the wine could peel paint. My husband

struggled to keep up conversation.

 

The principal’s wife smirked, said, Oh my,

you don’t know about the chrysanthemums?

                        .           .           .

 

But why smirk at my flowers—even if,

as I learned, they were leftovers marked down

 

after All Souls’ Day, intended only to decorate

graves? My father died when I was fifteen,

 

when the spider chrysanthemums

in my parents’ back yard were blooming,

 

white feathery petals trailing in the mud

after the autumn rains. And since then it always

 

seemed to me that white chrysanthemums

blooming among rain-soaked shadows

 

were like the beautiful ghost

in the film of a Noh play that my father once

 

took me to see, the ghost that appears at twilight

by a temple, to the wanderer in a far country.


Ann Fisher-Wirth’s sixth book of poems is The Bones of Winter Birds (Terrapin Books 2019). Ann collaborated with photographer Maude Schuyler Clay for Mississippi (Wings Press 2018), and coedited The Ecopoetry Anthology with Laura-Gray Street (Trinity UP 2013). Ann has had Fulbrights to Switzerland and Sweden, and residencies to Djerassi, The Mesa Refuge, Hedgebrook, and CAMAC/France. A senior fellow of the Black Earth Institute, and 2017 Poet-in-Residence at Randolph College, she teaches at the University of Mississippi.

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