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A Mouthful of Posies

Every summer, my flower collection expands with my lungs. I gather them before the solstice, because my mother always told me to stock up for winter. She’s a hoarder and has a basement lined with silver cans, the labels old and worn, peeling off like epidermis. My father was a gardener, but he only planted vegetables; he grew them to eat, because all of the whiskey had started to make him think the government watched him through the seeds of a sugar snap pea. Because of the growing black mold in our upstairs bedrooms, my parents and I slept in the living room in sleeping bags and hardened sheets and throw pillows. They never fixed the black mold. They never fixed anything. The vegetables would not save us, so I stole flowers from the world. My father believed the young woman next door poisoned our walls with witchcraft because of her amethyst necklace and bumper sticker of the Queen of Pentacles. One morning while I plucked cosmos from a private garden, he carved Bible verses into the paint of her car with a sewing needle. I came home with a basket of illegal petals and had to apologize on his behalf until the police got bored of us. My father died of stubbornness. The evening of the fifth anniversary of his death has me sneaking into the garden of an odd couple who make rugs from animal hide. I clip the petals from bushes of roses, magnolias, camellias, and then the butterfly bush in front of an old bank. On an apartment balcony sits a plethora of potted flowers; I climb up the fire escape and clip all of those too. I imagine everyone’s faces when they wake to water their sweet smelling children, only to find that they are gone, snipped down to a nub of roots and soil. I chew the petals for dinner and drink the leaves in hot tea. The velvet tongue of a flower melts in my throat and perennials grow in my chest with each breath. When I die, the posies will sprout from my lips, through the dirt of my tomb and across the earth.

Shyla Jones is a black writer from Boston, MA. She is currently the EIC of Superfroot Magazine and is working on a novel. Her work is forthcoming in Eunoia Review, Wrongdoing Magazine, and The Aurora Journal.

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