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©2018 Barren Magazine. An Alt.Lit Introspective.

The Delicate Art of Ikebana


by Cathy Ulrich

If I were a florist in Japan, I would like flowering plum best, the paleness of it.

It represents hope, you know, I would say to my customers, who would nod politely, as if they didn’t already know.

I would be so proficient at ikebana, placing flowers in vases just so. The shin, the soe, the hikae, the balance of emptiness and asymmetry.

You always smell like flowers, my Japanese boyfriend would say. I would never know if that meant he liked it or not.

If I were a florist in Japan, I would bring the leftover bouquets home to our twelve-tatami apartment. There would be flowers on the counters, flowers on the floor. We would have to walk so very carefully. Flowers are so very delicate, after all.

From time to time, we would bump a vase, jostle the flowers within, ruin the line of the shin. From time to time, we would knock a vase to the ground, the shattering of glass like the quiet after an argument.

I would pick up the broken pieces with my bare hand, end up cutting myself so that my Japanese boyfriend would have to bandage my fingers, or do like they always do in manga, lick the wound.

Why do you always do this, he’d say. Why don’t you use a towel?

If I were a florist in Japan, I wouldn’t tell my Japanese boyfriend how much I liked these times when he fussed over me, my hands in his hands, his tongue on my fingertips.

I would only say: I don’t know.

I would only say: I’m sorry, I don’t know, I’m sorry.

If I were a florist in Japan, my Japanese boyfriend would, drop my hands, reach for a towel, say: It’s all right.

He’d say: Don’t worry, it’s all right.

He would help me get the broken glass into the recyclables. He would help me pick up the wounded flowers, one by one. We would step over the place where they had fallen, the emptiness there, the asymmetry.

You smell like flowers, my Japanese boyfriend would say. You always smell like flowers.

Header photograph © Caroline Bardwell.

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