The Cost of a Flower

by Walter Bargen

Walter Bargen

In the beginning, three-year-old twin girls giggle
and chase each other, playing tag along the underground
Beresteiska Metro rails. They call the relentless wailing
of air-raid sirens muffled by 20 meters of earth
“the cows are mooing again.” Their mother says
she won’t tell them fairytales anymore.

This night the broad bands of blue and yellow
are blooming around the world. Niagara Falls
pounds the boulders at its base
as mist rises in the colors of the besieged.

Two stories of the Roman Colosseum’s ancient
Stones, all the way to the top of Calgary Tower,
are wrapped in blue, wrapped in yellow.
From Vilnius to Cyprus, Japan to Australia,
the Eiffel Tower to the Brandenburg Gate,
from the United Nations to the Empire State Building
petals of light shine flower-yellow and sky-blue.

With sunflower seeds in her pockets,
on the corner of an oddly abandoned
but tense suburban street, an old woman
in the grayest of coats, her faded red hood pulled up
as if it offers protection from centuries-old stories
that have returned, stands in front of a soldier,
his arms folded over his assault rifle,
fingering the trigger, as she demands to know,
“Why are you here?
Why are you here?” and he finally says,
“I was told this was an exercise.”

She again demands, “Why are you here?”
fingering the trigger, he begins
to half-beg her to go home. She offers him
sunflower seeds to put in his pocket
so when he lies down in this cold land
the flowers will get back up.

Last updated November 07, 2022