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The Chrysanthemums. Liège, 1968 by Ann Fisher-Wirth in SWWIM

March 22, 2019
The Chrysanthemums.
Liège, 1968
by Ann Fisher-Wirth

First marriage, first party, first apartment.
I invited our boss the principal, and his wife,

both from the States, who I wished would
ask us over but who never did, so that

sometimes I cried after lunch in the bathroom
at school. On a concrete ledge beside the bed

in the one-room apartment, I placed
candles and a potted white chrysanthemum,

marked down at Delhaize, where I bought
haché de boeuffor my special meatloaf

and red-black wine in a plastic bottle.
At seven, when the guests arrived, I started

cooking the meatloaf and making apple pie.
In the pocket-sized kitchen, I finished the pie

and fixed the salad as my husband and guests
drank that wine, gazing despondently

out the window at the barges on the Meuse.
We ate at half past ten. The meatloaf

was a failure, the hardboiled eggs baked
in the meatloaf had turned rubbery and gray,

the wine could peel paint. My husband
struggled to keep up conversation.

The principal’s wife smirked, said, Oh my,
you don’t know about the chrysanthemums?

.           .           .

But why smirk at my flowers—even if,
as I learned, they were leftovers marked down

after All Souls’ Day, intended only to decorate
graves? My father died when I was fifteen,

when the spider chrysanthemums
in my parents’ back yard were blooming,

white feathery petals trailing in the mud
after the autumn rains. And since then it always

seemed to me that white chrysanthemums
blooming among rain-soaked shadows

were like the beautiful ghost
in the film of a Noh play that my father once

took me to see, the ghost that appears at twilight
by a temple, to the wanderer in a far country.

Ann Fisher-Wirth’s sixth book of poems is The Bones of Winter Birds (Terrapin Books 2019). Ann collaborated with photographer Maude Schuyler Clay for Mississippi (Wings Press 2018), and coedited The Ecopoetry Anthology with Laura-Gray Street (Trinity UP 2013). Ann has had Fulbrights to Switzerland and Sweden, and residencies to Djerassi, The Mesa Refuge, Hedgebrook, and CAMAC/France. A senior fellow of the Black Earth Institute, and 2017 Poet in Residence at Randolph College, she teaches at the University of Mississippi.

Read it on SWWIM Here.