Cut back the stems an inch to keep in bloom.
So instructs the florist’s note
enclosed inside the flowers.
Who knew what was cut
could heal again, the green wounds close,
stitching themselves together?
It doesn’t matter. The flowers, red
and white, will bloom awhile, then wither.
You sit in an unlit room and watch
the vase throw crystal shadows through the dark.
The flowers’ colors are so lovely they’re painful.
In a week, you’ll have to throw them out.
It’s only hope that makes you take out scissors,
separate each bloom and cut
where you last measured. Did you know
Venus was said to turn into a virgin
each time she bathed? She did it
as a mark of love. She did it
to please her lover. Perhaps,
overwhelmed by pain,
she eventually stopped bathing
altogether. It doesn’t matter. It’s a pleasure
to feel the green nubs stripped, watch the stems
refresh under your blade.