The Hibiscus Talked to Me

– after Chavali Bangaramma

She had questions that required
deep and political thinking. Surprised?

she asked and I was
ashamed though generous

with the water I gave, wanting
her life-force to exalt and fulfill me,

believing that to be her role.
I wanted her unfussed

by annihilation. I wanted her blousy
and loud, shattered

with singularity, lit as if by electricity.
She lived by the rule of three:

more color, more fragrance, more
size. But I was afraid to look

her in the eye. Large and seeping
color, it was a mouth possessed

by lipstick, a hypnotizing maw.
Out of it sprung a strange, long column,

an erotic yellow thing. She made me
flawed and fevered. I wanted to decide.

A big plant is like a big planet,
her petals red-veined and windswept,

creamy velvet, chiffon. If she must speak,
the world preferred her muted.

We don’t take ones like her seriously —
tropical yet short-lived,

showy because she knows
what her heart is, centered and swirling.

She’ll fade in the evening shadows,
sleep through the darkest winter of our lives.

Anne Barngrover’s most recent poetry collection, Brazen Creature, was published with The University of Akron Press in 2018 and was a finalist for the 2019 Ohioana Award for Poetry. She is an assistant professor of English and Creative Writing at Saint Leo University and lives in Tampa, Florida. More: + Twitter at @Anne_Barngrover