During the day, fireworks are all smoke, the color cancelled out by the stark sky. You watch them break apart. Wherever the glimmering shapes of hues go is a mystery— swallowed up by light, leaving behind sparks as if you’ve shut your eyes too quickly.
If you are working in a floral shop, don’t say you understand when the customer on the phone tells you someone has died. Instead, focus on the standing spray and go through the various shapes there are to choose from. Select the most traditional, think about how, in your opinion, it resembles a firework.
Maybe, that’s why at night you swear those you have lost hover in the background, make themselves visible for the briefest pocket of a moment. As if they were made of gunpowder. And the sigh of sulfur and metal shadows the corners of the room. Maybe it’s just that the night quiets hunger— you hear them, disembodied yet solid, their forgotten voices startling as you drift asleep.
So, the color finds a way back to you.
When I was seventeen, I worked for a florist and spent most of my time shearing thorns off roses, leaves from snapdragons. Often staining my hands plucking the dusty stamens from lilies. But mostly I took orders via phone. I remember thinking at least I smelled nice, but my boyfriend at the time ran away when I came home. Claimed I smelled like a funeral. Now that I look back, it was a valid association. I was comforted by the soft shush of the scent, green and reminiscent of memorials and old churches, letting it linger even when I was home.
I have read that the moon is affected by the earth’s presence more than we ever thought possible. The moon feels the earth rush through it; think about the way you can sense someone silently approaching. Or how you get this sudden need to call your mom or best friend and when they answer they’re a little breathless or quiet and they say, “I’m so glad you called— I was thinking of you.” The little ringing in your ear. The whoosh of a friend brushing by you, their energy a palpable gale. Reddish compounds of iron oxide inexplicably defying odds, changing the chemical compound of the moon’s surface, the only constant in our lives. So, the earth’s atmosphere flickers, seeping into the reflective light above. Like the cheap metal ring left by the shimmering poolside, sparkling and corroding.
I was prepared to understand death. At least this is what I told myself. When I was fourteen, a friend committed suicide— old pistol his father gave him. I always thought it was odd that he chose his chest. As if there were a way to relieve whatever dwelled there. Pain relinquishing pain.
What I found was an easy math I could understand, a geometry of sorts. A living art.
The right angle, the right height and width, all of it means everything.
They say grief is the price we pay for love. Pain, like hunger, is so strangely a part of us in a way that makes us look at it and think, Without you, where would I be? I want to keep everything close; that is pain. On a scale of 1-10, how much hurt still exists?
Tape a grid onto a low and wide bowl. Place the flowers and greenery into the spaces of the grid, interlocking them and creating a foundation for shape. I loved doing this, controlling the form and fullness. Forcing cracked stems to stand and lay in a way that made them both architecture and language.
When I was a kid, I thought I would have to worry about black holes and asteroids a lot more than we do. Surely something so mysterious, unpredictable, and powerful would dictate our lives and sense of survival more than anything else. Recently, I read that one of the largest black holes scientists know of has disappeared. I do not know if we should be worried about this. Its absence means nothing to me in my little life, but I feel as if it is an elegy backtracking on itself. The absence of absence must be noteworthy in some way. Are we more or less whole with it gone?
Larkspur and delphinium, wispy and tall, are the exact kind of flowers that make me want to die a little. Die a little because they’re beautiful, because they always fix a floral arrangement that needs something. Die a little because they’re perfect to me, because they die eventually, because they come in so many colors and their soft fuzzy shapes make me think that they fell from a planet both akin to ours but wonderfully without us.
Most nights when I am too anxious to fall asleep, I put on a familiar and reliable documentary. It is almost always the one on Mars. Before, I didn’t know that Mars has ice, arctic tundra on either of its ends. Dust devils spin in a silent whir and each blue-hued horizon lifts and dips like clockwork. In that place, where energies sleep, wake, and shift without us to see it, walk it, and breathe it, is the exact feeling I find myself grasping for as the world weighs in on me, overwhelmed by this life of living.
Sometimes I imagine that going to an art museum is a lot like walking directly into a person’s chest; I can see the wooden box of their life, the ribcage wrapped around their core: memories, fabrics, odds and ends with peculiar scents. You’re looking for everything a person tried to be, everything they couldn’t. The holes in people’s lives, the things they filled their time with, creeping in and out of the halls. The colors or intentional lack thereof in contrast with the unending universe that teases us from above or below depending on your point of view. Meaning, the loss is tangible. The hunger a feral yet controlled thing. How you can look at all that has already happened and the grief that followed, or worse, anticipated it, and not have to turn away.
But this is only what I imagine.
For a long time, the moon has been rusting up there in the sky. Earthshine reveals the importance of recognizing when you have someone, they become a part of you in a way that solders a part of their hurt to you— that despite the corrosion we create while being so close to each other, we stay full and casting. One constant little complex machine, ravenous and vivid.
My father has a scar on his arm from when he was ten and his brother, a year or two older, curiously and perhaps somewhat viciously pressed the burning end of a cigarette to my father’s flesh. When my father tells the story, his eyes light up with mischief. Love even.
When someone calls for a funeral arrangement, don’t tell them you’re sorry. Arrange the white carnations into various angles and tuck in leatherleaf ferns. Recall the various shapes of fireworks, think about how the sun scatters shards of would-be color into stars and haze. Consider how they are so wondrous even though they are only briefly with us.
I always want everything to stay close to me, but I am never not looking back. What is ours is always closer to not ours. Through my window, I look up at the hunger moon mirroring itself between the panes of glass. Behind the winter glow, past the black expanse of what we’ve dubbed the sky, is everything that has happened, constant and flickering.