My father found the peace lily
in a florist near my dorm after he
helped me unpack. He bought it,
he said later, because he liked the pot
and it was easy to care for. Meaning
he didn’t think I could kill it. I watered it
as the directions instructed and named it
Nietzsche for the class I took that semester
with the only woman in the philosophy
department. For years, I unlocked the door
to my apartment and it was there, green
and permanent, like my life. From time
to time, a sickly white flower appeared
as if from nowhere, judging my decisions.
I read books and stacked them in piles.
Months turned to years. I moved
to another city and read more books.
Eventually, I got a dog. I began to neglect
the plant but still it lived—hanging on
like the college relationship that somehow
became a marriage. I watered the plant.
Snow fell in the winter. The summer sun
was hot. I walked the dog in the park
which is how I knew what season it was.
The plant sat in the tin pot painted
with bold flowers I couldn’t name. Years
turned into a decade. Eventually, a baby
arrived and she was so sickly there was no time
to read or water the plant. I don’t know when it died.
It must have been yellow and dry for some time
but I was too busy taking care of the baby
and the dog to notice. The books now reached
the ceiling. I kept the plant, not knowing what else
to do. One day, I woke up and noticed a terrible smell
coming from the rusted pot. I put the dead plant
in the hall with my husband and locked the door.
Jennifer Franklin holds degrees in poetry from Brown University and Columbia. She has published two full-length collections, most recently No Small Gift (Four Way Books, 2018). Her third book, If Some God Shakes Your House, will be published by Four Way Books in 2023. Franklin is a recipient of a 2021 CRCF Literature Award and a 2021 City Artist Corps NYFA grant for poetry. Her work has been published widely including in American Poetry Review, Barrow Street, Bennington Review, Boston Review, Gettysburg Review, JAMA, The Nation, New England Review, Paris Review, “poem-a-day” on poets.org, Prairie Schooner, and Rhino. She teaches in Manhattanville’s MFA program and the Hudson Valley Writers Center, where serves as Program Director. She lives in New York City. Her website is jenniferfranklinpoet.com.