Coaxing out the flowers lady

Photo “mr postman © kate elizabeth

Lady, do you have a story to tell?  Ever since I drove by your place, you’ve been on my mind.  It was September fourth somewhere between Ithaca and Bainbridge, maybe around two or three in the afternoon.  I saw your small clearing pushing in a circle into the woods, and I took it in all at once like a postcard.  If you’d showed it to me like a flash card and asked me, “What did you see?”  I’d have answered, “Flowers, overwhelmingly flowers, of every color.”  I could hear you maybe say, “Good.  What else did you see?”  I’d say I saw a beat, tan and cream-colored trailer with rust letting on where water prefers to travel down its sides, and I’d admit that I was struck momentously by the clash between natural beauty and its manmade opposite, the offense of it.  And I’d tell you it led me to believe you were beleaguered by offenses. 

I pictured an uneducated, gruff husband who enforces your weaknesses, keeps you small, and considers the proliferation of lush and billowing beds of flowers a threat to his manhood; and yet he tolerates it, either out of a played-down love for you or because he needs a cook, among other womanly “duties.”  I imagined him out in his big work shed by the woods, working on a ’78 Trans Am restoration project he’s had going for an eternity, could see him out there working and waiting for a buddy of his to come over and help him pull the engine.  I could see the buddy drive up in a rusted-out truck, get out, look around, and say, “Oooh, purty.”  Then he’d swagger up to the work shed, simultaneously hiking his pants up and tucking his shirt down in them and saying, “Smells like a goddamned perfume factory ‘round here!”  Then he’d chuckle.  Of course both men would know what’s at stake in that game.  The husband would know to growl and say, “Yeah, well, let her plant her stupid flowers, I say.  It keeps her off my back.”  Then he’d jab his buddy with his elbow, wink and add, “And there’s less lawn I got to mow.”  And to that they’d both tip back and roar like Tim Allen doing “Men Are Pigs.” 

I saw no swing-set or kids’ toys anywhere on your little circle of land, no evidence of playful young lives anywhere, just a shadow of one, now moved on.  I pictured a bright daughter who left home as soon as she could get some money saved up, get a grant or a scholarship for college, and get the hell out of there.  As much as she loved the softness of you, it was too soft, too benign, too seemingly unaware or hapless to shield her from her father’s gruffness, meanness, the misfortune of his apparent intellectual and emotional insufficiency.  She was embarrassed of the trailer, embarrassed that her father’s work shed was nicer than it, embarrassed for you, and she imagines nothing that could be powerful enough to drag her back to that whole bad scene, not even the flowers.  She writes to you, she calls you from college, asks you to visit during spring break, says she’ll pay for the airfare, but you are too small to stand up to your mechanic husband, to tell him he’ll have to fend for himself for a couple of weeks.  Or are you too small, Lady? 

Perhaps I’ve got it all wrong.  Just because your legion of flowers wasn’t quite enough to neutralize the trailer for me, that doesn’t mean they’re not enough for you.  Maybe you’re fine wherever you are in the world.  Maybe in caring for your millions of flowers, you receive some thing—inner knowing, acceptance, peace, or the like—that you ultimately need internally so that it doesn’t matter what goes on externally.  That would certainly explain why every time I sit down to get you down, you have nothing to say, because you have no problem and maybe it’s me who has the problem.  Alright.  I don’t care who has the problem as long as everything that needs to be revealed gets revealed and the story gets told as it needs to get told.  I’ll keep working on it then, and if you have anything to say, I’ll be driving by your place again, or you can just speak to your flowers and I bet you I’ll be able to hear what you say from wherever I happen to be.



kate elizabeth.  I found her photos today, find them extraordinary.  They make me feel the way I feel after seeing any real, raw, art thing, like I felt after watching “Winter Passing” last night: awed to silence like death, desolate like needing a glass of good bourbon whiskey when all I have is beer and it’s late.  I recommend a perusal of her work, certainly for her captions, the most interesting I happen to have seen on Flickr.

10 responses to “Coaxing out the flowers lady

  1. “The scening route,” my old friend Mary Jo McCabe used to call it, her way of describing the writer in me, before there was an acknowledged writer in me – the eyes that take in what’s around them, and just can’t leave well-enough alone, tales spinning before you even know the dervish is up to her/his old tricks. Off in the west Texas of Alpine and Marfa this weekend, at a wedding of friends, big booming characters right and left, I found myself straddling the worlds of here and there, off running down the scening route once again.

    Your narrator’s meditations put me in mind of the loveliness (and the compulsions at work) of that route – you drive (and run) it, too: have long done so, I’ve no doubt.

    I was tossed a bit by the “Lady.” Male narrator? Is that what draws “him” into “his” meditations? I love all the speculations: they ache, as only your writings can ache. Of course, the last line suggests that it may be Jules who’s driving by.

    The ache of the missing daughter is probably the one that aches for me the most.

  2. I love this lady who grows the flowers. I think she is secretly happy that daughter made it out – that she had hoped and worked for that all along and it made the rest worthwhile. She knows her girl is out there heading for something better because mama was a lady who knew beauty and held herself above the rust and the grease and sweat no matter how low mr. redneck disappointment tried to bring her. She is more than him and he knows it. Beautiful piece A :)

    Ah, yes, “the scening route,” that really cool term I keep forgetting about. But that’s it. And I bet you got some good spins off those good, big-booming Texas folk. Larger than life already, all it takes then is just a No. 2 pencil and a good stretch of time from sit down to get up, to get them sparkling on paper. Or maybe shooting off like the sparks they are all over your site, amidst the scats in your skinny, tall words. But the trailer lady, I didn’t see her. She may not even exist, another possible reason why she ain’t talkin’. “She” may be a guy, for all I know! When I drove by there, I just saw so many big, thick, billowing clouds of flowers all along a trailer and spewing out in places onto the greenest, tidiest lawn, what there was of it after the flowers were done with it. And when I got to my destination I was so excited, just knowing there was a story around the person who planted and cared for all those flowers. But it’s been over a month now and I haven’t been able to get anything on it. That’s what this is about, me trying to coax out the flowers lady…or guy… Anyway, so you were close with the Jules conjecture. You’re good : )

    Me, too! I think you’re right through and through your comment that was as lush as her flowers. Thank you for that, you good, sparkling Texan : )

  4. I checked out kate elizabeth’s photostream – awesome photos, I may have to spend a little more time on flickr…
    thanks for the ideas!

  5. DEE
    NP, Dee. Most Flickr photos I can just go ahead and use, give credit out the wazoo, and prepare to apologize for not asking if it comes to that…based on Grace Hopper’s “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission,” that is. But I’ve run into a couple Flickr user’s photos that I can’t get at (probably because I’m not a computer whiz) and kate_elizabeth’s is one of them, so I ask. Trouble is, by the time a story stops being in flux and a title is decided on (which sometimes affects image choice) it’s usually too late to contact the photographer, get permission, and get the damned story posted already. I wanted to use a kate_elizabeth photo for the SS#185-Junk post, “Sunny, lovely” but I couldn’t connect with her. Well, you’re an IT kinda gal, ain’tcha? So let me know if you ever have the same trouble and if you figure it out, k? :-)

  6. This one is a bit on the line of the other story about the neighbours – people just trigger this extreme curiosity in us.
    It also reminds me of a favourite lyric of mine from a Suzanne Vega song: Like a hunchback in heaven, he’s ringing the bells of the church for the last half an hour and it sounds like he’s missing something or someone that he knows he can’t have now…and if he isn’t, I certainly am.
    I’m quoting from memory so there might be some mistakes but it always makes me smile when I hear it. :)

    Yes, it is that same thing. Here I am a human yet I think it so funny how we are so curious about other humans. We watch, like I have been watching a new house go up that I can see from the living room windows. And I run commentary on it, speculate about it. We want to know what age people are and what they do for a living so we can see where we stand in the human race. And I do the same thing. Of course. And of course I had to find the YouTube of that song, “In Liverpool.” So good. And Vega’s lyrics that you quoted, the heart of genius. Thanks for bringing it up. You could do it again in other comments and I wouldn’t mind. Your music and lyrics to my lyrics : )

    And thank you, too, for the afterthought : )

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