Unashamed, their fragrance smacks me
like an extravagant greeting as I step out of my car
into my parents’ Carolina garden—hedged, abundant,
Dionysian—and suddenly I’m slow dancing
at a senior prom, tacky decorations overhead,
like a scene from a movie I didn’t see,
or maybe Carrie before the conflagration.
My mother’s beloved camelias, out-of-bloom,
stand like scene fillers, and lofty magnolias suggest
parental authority. I take a selfie in front of
the lavish gardenias and notice in the background
my parents’ neighbor hacking them with garden shears.
When I turn, she apologizes for her theft. Oh please,
who really owns flowers, I say, and she looks at me
as if I am nuts. Maybe she covets punishment—
us demanding she hand over ten cups of sugar
or ordering her to rake our leaves in autumn.
I watch her retreat to her house with an armload
of flowers. What would Carrie do, I muse,
and for a moment I imagine the neighbor’s house afire,
although the scent of the gardenias drifts unabated
and their blooms blaze white in peaceful surrender.
Geer Austin is the author of Cloverleaf, a poetry chapbook (Poets Wear Prada Press). His poetry has appeared in Poet Lore, Fjords Review, Main Street Rag and others. He lives in New York City.