This week’s poem, Susan King’s “Red Geraniums,” recalls the flowers as symbol in a mother’s difficult life. I love this poem’s vivid sensory details of the plant’s color, leaves and scent, and the intimate, aching speculations into the past – and the present – they spur in the speaker.

King, who has a master of divinity degree, recently moved with her husband from Minneapolis to Cumberland after spending many summers on Great Cranberry Island. She has published six collections of poetry, including “Bog Orchids,” “Moon Dance,” “One-Breasted Woman” and “Coven.” She was also editor of an anthology of poems by people emerging from poverty, entitled “Out of the Depths: Poetry of Poverty, Courage and Resilience.”

Red Geraniums
By Susan King

In Spring my mother managed
to take a break from her despond
long enough to get a couple of
red geraniums in terracotta pots.
Was the acrid smell of them
strong enough to cut, if only briefly
through her gloom? And the red
was so red. So red. Was it effigy
for the life she might have led,
the inner vibrance that once was hers,
for the strength she wished she had
to break from my dad, his beatings,
his “dames,” his gin, as well as
her own bourbon and vermouth?
Maybe she hoped the force of their odor
and color could act as catalyst or perhaps
they were just the only indulgence
afforded her then. She set them out
on the tiny porch of our cramped
bankruptcy pad. Did she even
water them once? The velvety, elegant,
crenellated, burgundy-banded leaves
yellowed. Fallen from the stems,
shriveled crimson. When I told a friend
of this, she said, Now I understand why
you need to garden the way you do.

Megan Grumbling is a poet and writer who lives in Portland. Deep Water: Maine Poems is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. “Red Geraniums,” copyright 2022 by Susan King, appears by permission of the author.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: