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Oh Do You Know the Flower Man / Kizziah Burton

Updated: Feb 14

Kizziah Burton lives and works in Hollywood. And this poem - shortlisted for the Forward Prize in 2024 - is awash with florescence. And yet, within the compulsive structure, there is a threatening tone. She mentions the poem is about coercive control, which troubles the flowery surface of all those blossoms. Just as Hades seduces and enchains Persephone, so the 'me' of the poem is bound by "earthlace" and "enfleurage" (worth looking up that word!) and picked painfully apart by the close.

He watches flowers. He admires flowers. He draws near flowers.

He tenders flowers. He caresses flowers. He picks flowers.

He weighs baskets of flowers. He weighs my face of flowers.

He offers a night of flowers. He threads a string of flowers

for my door and for my altar. Flowers of devotion. Flowers

for an evening fire. Flowers for a Pluto moon. He lays flowers

across my long bed, my long hair, my longing for him. Flowers

for a collarbone. Flowers for a throat. Until my voice flowers

in this flower dress. This mons of flowers. This cup of flowers,

this perfumed breast, this canticle, this rose cloister of flowers,

this anthologia. He provides moths and bumblebees for flowers.

He provides lemon grass and slender stalks. He strings flowers

through my lily bells and flowerheads of chrysanthemum flowers.

He provides waters drenched in honeycomb. He showers flowers

with kisses, showers of praise - into a breathless litany of flowers.

He says I am the fragrance of hyacinth, the essence of all flowers.

He says I am the fragrance of earth, of rain, of sun, sun flowers,

of musk, of patoulli, oud, and civit. He says, 'with these flowers.'

He proposes flowers. He sews a sash around my waist of flowers.

He provides a ley of huckleberries for my bridlepath of flowers.

He escorts me in a brief pageant of cereus grandiflorus flowers.

He composes eulogies. Says, 'I author you with these flowers?'

He sighs soft falling flowers. Beglamours my speechless flowers.

He beguiles me with his dew wet flowers. His eyes of sad flowers.

A looming mist of flowers. Elaborate aching delphinium flowers.

Flowers of misdirection. Rows of trembling paperwhites flower.

He injures me with leaves, with grasses, slant stems of flowers.

He destroys me with seeds, roots, rhizomes - with riling flowers,

masses of memoried flowers, ruptured petals. Veiled in flowers,

he turns them into extending, rounded violent equations of flowers.

He extends the lengthy verse needling nipples pink with flowers.

He says, 'I stay you with flowers, a shrine of flowers? Wildflowers.

He hems my mouth shut in flowers. Lengthens my neck in flowers.

A long daisy chain of flowers. Swaying me above heirs of flowers.

He encircles the throats of my wrists in lianas of clematis flowers.

He stems me in a chassis of tallow for cold enfleurage. Flowers

lay across my long bed of earthlace in fields of ashphodel flowers.

Or he merely continues to tease petals from my lost bits of flowers.

Or at night he urges quince thorns into my laurel wreath of flowers.

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