Minding Rites

By David Yezzi

This guy I know, a rabbi, Friday nights,
on his way home against the sun in winter,
always stops at a florist or bodega
to buy a bunch of flowers for his wife.

Every week the same, a ritual,
regardless of her mood that morning, fresh
upsets at work, or snarling on the bridge;
he brings her roses wrapped in cellophane.

But isn’t there a ring of hokiness
in that? Why should a good man make a show
of his devotion? Some things go unspoken;
some things get tested on the real world,

and isn’t that the place that matters most?
So when you told me I should bring you flowers,
I laughed, “But don’t I show my feelings more
in dog-walks, diapers, and rewiring lamps?”

The flowers, I learned later, weren’t for wooing,
not for affection in long marriage, but
for something seeded even deeper down,
through frost heaves, and which might be, roughly, peace.

(It’s funny that I just assumed romance.)
Now there’s no peace with us, I wonder what
they might have meant for you, those simple tokens,
holding in sight what no rite can grow back.


Originally appeared in NOR 8

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