What did the flowers know?

One of the flowers in my chain-link fence, Omaha. Dancers performing a Mozart Requiem Mass

One of the flowers in my chain-link fence, Omaha. Dancers performing a Mozart Requiem Mass

A poem about the death of my neighbor in Omaha


A chain link fence
separates my dwelling from my neighbor
I barely knew her
we seldom spoke.

Last night my neighbor was on the evening news
they said she was a teacher
renown for her gardening
loved by her students.

Reporters and cameras covered the street
as did the fire trucks
their rotating lights struggled
to penetrate the oppression
acrid smoke ensnared everything.

Tiny flowers on wispy vines
cling to the fence in such profusion
they almost hide its very existence
they have strange hours
these evanescent flowers
because they only remain open in the morning.

The flowers appear for the first time each year
as the summer season is about to die
bloom explosively
early in the morning they appear
only before first light
they appear.

Lavender, magenta, rose red, and white
small fragile stars with five petals
seem fierce for their vivid colors.

The fence flowers are more profuse
than ever late this afternoon
this is strange
it never happened before.

Just before the sun reaches its zenith
the fence flowers
always quickly tighten into cones
become invisible in the dark vines.

Fire erupted in my neighbor’s house
as she slept unaware
smoke choked the life out of her
just before first light.

No one knew until it was too late
only the fence flowers witnessed it
bright, silent witnesses
lavender, magenta, rose red, and white.

When the smoke enveloped the flowers
as they awakened
at first light
did they recognize the fragrance of a soul
with an inscrutable sense
as it fled its earthly body?

They tell me that a soul flower now blooms
where we cannot see it
illuminated in brilliance
in a faraway garden

During the winter when the vines shrivel up
and fall to the dirt
you believe they can’t come back
they reunite with the earth
they’re dead
you see the end of them.

Today the flowers
are brighter than they ever were before.


“And now concerning thy question regarding the soul of man and its survival after death. Know thou of a truth that the soul, after its separation from the body, will continue to progress until it attaineth the presence of God, in a state and condition which neither the revolution of ages and centuries, nor the changes and chances of this world, can alter. It will endure as long as the Kingdom of God, His sovereignty, His dominion and power will endure. It will manifest the signs of God and His attributes, and will reveal His loving kindness and bounty.” (Baha’u’llah)