How to Purchase Tulips in March

Guy at the corner shop saying to keep
your spindly necks at the jar’s top edge,
warning you’d keep growing, in silence,
in secret, in the dark, and to chop you
down one inch a day. He’s got an old dog
with a sign—to only touch him here—
talk softly—don’t annoy him. Oh, tulips,

you’re a purchase ill-considered, gaudy
flame-bright orange, flattening to yellow,
rising up to an L.A. ’70s glorious smog-burst
sunset rose. And you’re not Sylvia Plath
tulips, poor dear; how sick to conjure her,

okay, pretentious. She’d a thing about tulips.
Hot, scentless beauties. I prefer carnations,
that fabulous, cheap date offering, bright spice,
but today? Carnations, there are none,

the shop guy whispers above his snoring dog,
so I’m stuck with my un-Plath tulips;
she was young, I am old. You tulips, you’re not for
the time after failing to go, nor the contemplation
of going, though you contain them
in all your flaming bounty.

—Helen Wickes


BIO: Helen Wickes lives in Oakland, California. She is the author of four books of poetry: In Search of Landscape, published by Sixteen Rivers Press, Dowser’s Apprentice and Moon over Zabriskie, both published in 2014 by Glass Lyre Press, and World as You Left It, published by Sixteen Rivers Press in 2015.