Words by Holly Lee. Response in picture by Lee Ka-sing
黃楚喬李家昇早餐下午茶筆記集

To name a flower

To call flowers
by their proper names
when Spring arrives
I find myself
wandering in the garden centre
inside Home Depot

Aisle after aisle
small trees growing in planters
flowers blooming in potting benches
I drop down names on paper
New Guinea
Begonia
Geranium
Petunia
Lobelia
Marigold
on the bountiful hanging baskets
names jump up in colours
Fruit Punch, Night in Pompeii
Northern skies

One Summer we had lunch at Kai's
under a blue fabric flowery canopy
table and chairs set on raised platform
stepping down to a small garden, where
Glenn carefully tended for 29 years
birds were chirping in little paradise
I asked for names of the flowers
he gave me paeonia
nigella and campanula
he said a devoted gardener
should attend horticulture lesson
to address plants like people
botanical names to give them character

Now vaguely remember those names
I was told smartphone apps
can identify nature's
flora and fauna
a natural history encyclopedia
printed in the heart of your palm
are names that important?
a bear never asks
what tree are you
when he rubs his back on a pine
but Adam, already knew the names
he would give, to every beast of the field
every fowl of the air
he called the bone of his bones
the flesh of his flesh
woman

So names are important
and having learned paeonia
when an Algerian said
alfawania
I had no idea, until
he handed me the flower
Peony, Paeon
or Paean
in Greek mythology
he was physician of gods
and white peony in China
is traditional herbal remedy

To respect a flower
you ought to know its full name
for example Paeonia lactiflora
to love this flower
all you need to know, is
angel cheeks
angel cheeks, in its full blooms
have a ball of
mixed dark pink and cream petals
and a double row of
shell pink guard corolla
the past Winter I sent a postcard flower
to my poet friend Gary
Cattleya labiata and Trochilidae
Heade's highly dramatic, gorgeous
orchid and hummingbird painting
out there in the misty tropical landscape
a pink flower and a bird with wings beating


Martin Johnson Heade
Orchid and Hummingbird near a Waterfall 1902




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