When I put her out, once, by the garbage pail,
She looked so limp and bedraggled,
So foolish and trusting, like a sick poodle,
Or a wizened aster in late September,
I brought her back in again
For a new routine--
Vitamins, water, and whatever
Sustenance seemed sensible
At the time: she'd lived
So long on gin, bobbie pins, half-smoked cigars, dead beer,
Her shriveled petals falling
On the faded carpet, the stale
Steak grease stuck to her fuzzy leaves.
(Dried-out, she creaked like a tulip.)

The things she endured!--
The dumb dames shrieking half the night
Or the two of us, alone, both seedy,
Me breathing booze at her,
She leaning out of her pot toward the window.

Near the end, she seemed almost to hear me--
And that was scary--
So when that snuffling cretin of a maid
Threw her, pot and all, into the trash-can,
I said nothing.

But I sacked the presumptuous hag the next week,
I was that lonely.

-by Theodore Roethke



soubriquet said...

They have a nasty smell, don't you think?
Oh yes, they look okay in a window box, but if you touch them, your hands will stink of geranium, even after soap and hot water.
Maybe some people like the smell, but for some reason, I've been prejudiced against geraniums since I was a child.
Maybe, out of the range of my memory, I was once chastised for damaging a geranium, and have harboured a grudge ever since.
I'd nurture another plant, I'd pamper an orchid, but unlike Theodore Roethke, I'd never have weakened, and brought the damn thing back in again, to stink up my room.
Mind you, Roethke's description suggests the plant might have been hard to detect.

J Cosmo Newbery said...


red dirt girl said...


I agree, a geranium is most odiferous and not my preferred houseplant. But then again, houseplants and flowers live at 'their own risk' under my care. It's either feast or famine with water... I admire the geranium's pluck and sheer will to live. I think mr. roethke admires it, too.

Cosmo, lonely is just a number .... yes? :)