by Alice Quinn and Matthew Sitman
"Digging in the Garden of Age I Uncover a Live Root" by May Swenson:
The smell of wet geraniums. On furry
leaves, transparent drops rounded
as cats’ eyes seen sideways.
Smell of the dark earth, and damp
brick of the pots you held, tamped empty.
Flash of the new trowel. Your eyes
green in greenhouse light. Smell of
your cotton smock, of your neck
in the freckled shade of your hair.
A gleam of sweat in your lip’s scoop.
Pungent geranium leaves, their wet
smell when our widening pupils met.
(Reprinted with permission of The Literary Estate of May Swenson, forthcoming in May Swenson: Collected Poems (Library of America, 2013) . All rights reserved. Photo by Flickr user ndrwfgg) Update from a reader:
The attempt was noble, but that's not the flower referred to in the poem. The "geraniums" of pots and greenhouses were once regarded as species of the genus Geranium and that is how they came to be known that way even still today in common gardening parlance, but unfortunately years before I was born in 1960 botanists collectively decided they were actually species in a different genus named Pelargonium. This sort of change does happen from time to time in biology, but it can make for confusing horticulture.
If you do an image search on "Pelargonium" you'll see the sorts of "geraniums" the poem refers to.