Bronx Heirlooms

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

I hadn’t seen a sunflower in real life
             until 7th grade when Ms. Garcia took our class
to the Botanical Garden though we all wanted to go to the Bronx Zoo

             so girls could slip in between the bars of the lion’s den
and make out with boys. We had spent
             all of 6th period learning how to draw sunflowers

so we wouldn’t embarrass our principal by mistaking them
            for daffodils. They fenced up the sky
so pigeons couldn’t shit

            on the fields of Azaleas and Magnolias;
and Narcissi and yes, I knew
            the names of all the flowers I had never seen,

spelled strange and unbelievable like Rose-
            zanay and Nateasheia. Demesha.
And La’Condria. Names mispronounced

            as weed when translated out of their mother-
tongue. What is a name but a translation of
            color and what other way to know one’s color

than through the pronunciation of their name. Locked
            in the conservatory, our teachers told us we weren’t allow
to touch anything. Not even the precious, dead-

            headed flowers awaiting repatriation, their bodies crunching
beneath our feet. We returned home in a single-file line—
            aphids marching up Fordham Road past weeds that chewed

through the concrete basketball courts
            of the project buildings that bouqueted
our bodies in one-bedroom apartments.