Poetry Daily: http://www.poems.com/

By the Way


You are right to point out that the agapanthus
is not a lily, especially to one who so loves
precision, but the agapanthus is also called
"Lily of the Nile," which surely could be seen
as justification for calling it a lily.

I am sure Cleopatra herself never called
this plant agapanthus. And, well, wouldn't one
want to be more like Cleopatra than like
Theophrastus? The Queen of the Nile
would have likely called it a lily, no?

Yes, yes, words have meaning and have power
and all of that stuff. Yes, yes, I of all people
understand the importance of naming.
But if Cleopatra would have called it a lily . . .
Okay, I will stop. You look great, by the way.

But I just want to point out that the agapanthus
is such an odd plant that even botanists
cannot agree on the number of species in the genus,
some saying six, others as many as ten.
Okay, I swear I'll stop. Seriously. Promise.

The windy night air is cold, and the wings
bound along my spine sweaty and bruised,
the long bandages chafing my armpits. Words
have power, my love. You call this winged thing
an angel, but that is not the word I would use for it.


C. Dale Young

Boston Review

Mar / Apr 2014


To view this poem online, visit the Poetry Daily archive at http://www.poems.com/archive.php
View a large-print version of this poem