after the painting, Woman in a Striped Dress, by Edouard Vuillard
The women’s chatter is un-momentous.
Something about mums in late winter,
how fall flowers linger
into next season.
What grief they feel they conceal
behind placid down-turned faces
imposed upon armfuls of carnations
slipped behind their glass cases.
Funerals or weddings,
such are the occasions for flowers.
An angel hovers above one woman’s
right shoulder, like a hummingbird,
a blur against the backdrop
of the florist’s shop and listens
intently. What thoughts she has
are quick and fleeting. She knows
the woman’s hand is empty and hangs
useless from the lace cuff
of her mutton chop sleeve, more stiff
and crinkling for attention
than the cut, voluptuous arrangements
she admires in their vases.
Neither woman can hear her
hum. If only they could retrace their steps
and smell the flowers picked
along the way, or heed the murmurs
made by the angel of everyday bouquets.