American Flowers

by Lesley Wheeler

The girl with crooked braids
snacks on nasturtiums
from a plastic bag: brick-

red, gold, funneling nectar
from her green-lacquered
nails into her rosy throat.

Other arrogant, pretty
children run past her to the hex
jars of lavender honey

or curly piles of Russian kale.
All are safe enough
to trust the long-haired vendors

when they offer fistfuls
of peppery blossom, to chew
with spotless fluoride-

armored teeth, to bruise
and grind those petals
into nutrients. The girl

whose thick soft hair
slips like outrage
from its bindings cries

that piano practice is hard
that someone won’t be her friend
that the sun is growing hot

and I want to shout
at her and to feed her
more piano, more flowers

LESLEY WHEELER’s forthcoming books are the poetry collection The State She’s In, the novel Unbecoming, and the essay collection Poetry’s Possible Worlds; previous poetry books are Radioland and the chapbook Propagation. Her work appears in Ecotone, Beloit Poetry Journal, Crab Orchard Review, and other magazines. Poetry Editor of Shenandoah, she lives in Virginia.