Sharon Chmielarz

Lilies of the Valley
by Sharon Chmielarz

A woman from money, from the romance of Baku
on the Caspian Sea, worked in a shoe factory
In Minnesota for a buck thirty-five an hour,
her residence, the town’s cheapest rooms.
Each spring she gave me lilies of the valley.
Then, as if the past crept up on her,
and her body was aghast at her history,
she died of a stroke.

Not only equal,
there’s something bridal about the way
a woman holds a bouquet close
to her breasts or pins a sprig of lilies
to her collar on the last day of school
when lily fragrance, lily appearance
lightens every dingy street in Russia,
every flower seller’s hands. Ostera,
goddess of spring, has broken out of snow.


Here’s a hand, blue-veined. It lies at rest
as it’s been taught: to steady a tablet while
the other writes. Here is a leaf, green-veined,
feeding the roots as it fades. Unstoppable
cycles. The one-armed soldier limps home,
the house, bombed, yet a certain perfume
sweetens the ruins. No wonder there’s winter.
There has to be a pause—easy there.
That’s moonlight you’re walking on,
a longer white, the white of wish.


On the north side of our third house,
the Baku woman’s son and mine,
the soil was poor; grass grew spotty
at best. I wish the lilies of the valley
I’d planted luck. I wanted to open a window
and catch a whiff of their blooming. Be
In awe.—They grew. In not too many years
a green-leaved parade bordered the foundation.
The north side was a lonely spot like those
in dreams, a neglected place seemingly,
That suddenly sprouts a little garden.


Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 15, Issue 2.

Sharon Chmielarz’s latest books of poetry are Calling, a finalist in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards, 2011, and The Sky Is Great the Sky Is Blue. She’s the recipient of the 2012 Jane Kenyon Award from Water~Stone Review.

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