Roethke’s “The Geranium”

Here’s a poem I promised Jonathon, one I’ve loved since first reading it in college even though I was still living at home and had never tried raising plants on my own:

The Geranium

When I put her out, once, by the garbage pail,
She looked so limp and bedraggled,
So foolish and trusting, like a sick poodle,
Or a wizened aster in late September,
I brought her back in again
For a new routine–
Vitamins, water, and whatever
Sustenance seemed sensible
At the time: she’d lived
So long on gin, bobbie pins, half-smoked cigars, dead beer,
Her shriveled petals falling
On the faded carpet, the stale
Steak grease stuck to her fuzzy leaves.
(Dried-out, she creaked like a tulip.)

The things she endured!–
The dumb dames shrieking half the night
Or the two of us, alone, both seedy,
Me breathing booze at her,
She leaning out of her pot toward the window.

Near the end, she seemed almost to hear me–
And that was scary–
So when that snuffling cretin of a maid
Threw her, pot and all, into the trash-can,
I said nothing.

But I sacked the presumptuous hag the next week,
I was that lonely.

Turns out I’m no better raising houseplants than Roethke was, particularly as a bachelor. I wonder if that says more about my personal relationships or my habits?

Perhaps it says more about how lonely I was as a bachelor.

One thought on “Roethke’s “The Geranium””

  1. “At the time: she’d lived
    So long on gin, bobbie pins, half-smoked cigars, dead beer…”

    Lucky (for my new plant) that I don’t have a maid, don’t smoke, and don’t drink alcohol at home.

    I’ll take Roethke’s poem as a cautionary tale, though. Thanks for posting it!

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