The Florist’s at Midnight


Stems bleed into water
loosening their sugars
into the dark,

clouding dank water
stood in zinc buckets
at the back of the shop.

All night the chill air
is humid with breath.
Pools of it mist

from the dark mouths
of blooms,
from the agape

of the last arum lily –
as a snow-white wax shawl
curls round its throat

cloaking the slim yellow tongue,
with its promise of pollen,
solitary, alert.

Packed buckets
of tulips, of lilies, of dahlias
spill down from tiered shelving

nailed to the wall.
Lifted at dawn,
torn up from their roots

then cloistered in cellophane,
they are cargoed across continents
to fade far from home.

How still they are
now everyone has gone,
rain printing the tarmac

the streetlights
in pieces
on the floor.

from The Florist’s at Midnight (Jonathan Cape, 2001), © Sarah Maguire 2001, used by permission of the author.

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