{An Umbrella Special Feature}

Robert B. Shaw

is the Emily Dickinson Professor of English at Mount Holyoke College.

His latest books are Blank Verse: A Guide to Its History and Use (Ohio University Press), and a poetry collection, Aromatics (Pinyon Publishing).

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An Arrangement of Dried Flowers

What was it that our friend said?
“Bad feng shui.”
They’re off-putting, looking dead
but not all the way.

Odors among which waded
are gone from these odd-shaded
arid effigies.

The yellows brought to a halt
short of rust,
the whites brittle as rock salt,
hardened pinks—all must

cast more of a charm on some
that does not regard as glum
would-be permanence.

Give suchlike to the long-range
cabined lightyears, seeking change
from what flesh has wrought;

or to kings tucked in stone sar-
whose fine linens daubed with tar
keep their tissues dry.

For us, though, these arrested
blooms inspire
an old thought: time, unbested,
wants each sprig drier.

And who cares to recall that
steady leak
draining softness, scent, all that
even as we speak? . . .