Appropriate Recompense

I want an ugly pink carnation
with all those serrated
petals overlapping.
The flower must be slightly droopy
and the stem
a little slimy from waiting
in a bucket at the corner
convenience store for those
awkward evenings after
a morning fight when you
know, if you don’t bring home
a carnation as ungraceful as
your inarticulate apology
there will be more of the
same hell to pay.
I have plates.


This week sees the lead up to Valentine’s Day. Predictably the theme over the next six days will be love and romantic relationships. Amateur poets, before they have matured in style and (possibly) earn money/prestige from their work, are often criticized for being love and romance obsessed. The lyricists for the popular music industry, romcom scriptwriters and librettists of sweeping nineteenth-century operas are not called to account for their obsession with this topic. So, for the next few days, let us indulge.

Often as I traverse the platforms, elevators and turnstiles of London’s Underground, I explore poem topics. In an effort to elevate my craft, I have entertained opening lines about burning hatred, deep anger, annoyance, profound joy, a sense of belonging, listlessness, hopefulness. I’ve tried to court many an emotion other than luuurrrve.

Perhaps I am still a young, amateur poet, because it is love – often thwarted, unrequited and in anguish – that fuels my pen. This may also be a product of my life phase. Perhaps emotions of more interesting variety and more expansive human experiences will surface in my future writing. Perhaps I am yet to grow up in the literary sense.

Today’s poem outlines a call for a gesture of apology. The gender of the two characters, the narrator and the spoken to subject, is not made explicit. However, the conditioning of normative heterosexual coupling probably meant that you read the poetic voice as that of woman speaking to a man. (I’d be interested to know if you read the poem through a different frame.) While it is a poem about love and a relationship, there is underlying anger possibly paired with a degree of emotional blackmail. Bring a peace offering and I won’t throw the plates.

In case you’re wondering how much of the poem is autobiographical, because readers often do: I haven’t thrown plates and am not a great fan of carnations. I prefer flowers with a scent and less of a hot-house veneer about them.

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Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys
Shining in Brightness

Published by BeadedQuill

Author of over 300 poems, also books, essays and short stories. Published in the Johannesburg Review of Books, Carapace and Type/Cast. BeadedQuill's titles are for sale via

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