Morituri Te Salutant

(Those who are about to die salute you)

(For Merril and Ken)

Denton has planted out geraniums again.
No-one here remembers when he did’nt. They
have never flowered of course, the summers here
do nothing for geraniums. Each day
he’ll water them while water lasts but when
the tanks ring hollow most of them will die
a few will linger into winter and supply
the slips for Denton’s temporary greening
in spring’s brief, optimistic week next year.
And so
like some grey, desiccated maize- god he
will kerosene-tin water in each evening.
No-one waters in the morning here.

Back when the town was busier and trains
ran weekly, some-one set agave cuttings where
the goods-yard ends. Wind whistles at the signals
now, but multiplying, spiking plants that share
the dust with rusting buffers flower and die,
replaced by thrusting suckers growing green
through days
that decimate geraniums. It seems
that there’s a message here for Denton though,
with work in hand, he must have missed it. Now
it’s May
and time to plant geraniums. That rain
last week could add a week to spring, who knows
next year may bring a decent season, flowers –

perhaps. But if the decent year
postpones itself again and gardeners slow
the dying for a while perhaps there’ll be
another message sent to Denton from
the yard where green agave flower-spikes grow
like two
gesticulating, jeering fingers raised
in some obscene salute towards that grey
aquarius with kerosene tins. Though
he may not see it – he’ll have work to do.

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