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American Life in Poetry

The following poem by James Davis May, published in 32 Poems Magazine, has a sentence I’d like to underline, because it states just what I look for in the poems I choose for this column: "We praise the world by making/ others see what we see." Here we have moonflowers opening, for a man and his daughter, and for us. The poet lives in Georgia and is the author of “Unquiet Things” from Louisiana State University Press.

Moonflowers

Tonight at dusk we linger by the fence

around the garden, watching the wound husks

of moonflowers unclench themselves slowly,

almost too slow for us to see their moving—

you notice only when you look away

and back, until the bloom decides,

or seems to decide, the tease is over,

and throws its petals backward like a sail

in wind, a suddenness about this as though

it screams, almost the way a newborn screams

at pain and want and cold, and I still hear

that cry in the shout across the garden

to say another flower is about to break.

I go to where my daughter stands, flowers

strung along the vine like Christmas lights,

one not yet lit. We praise the world by making

others see what we see. So now she points and feels

what must be pride when the bloom unlocks itself

from itself. And then she turns to look at me.

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