I Am the Daisy

First published in Airengs, Fall 1996 (England)

girls in second grade are glorious flowers
we wear crepe paper petals on our sweet young heads
		I am the daisy
drooping white petals hang down all around my hair
my lank tiara gracing this hot American day

a princess of petals in a white linen pinafore
I dance with the other flowers in a wobbly circle
		I am the daisy
we swirl around the Maypole in bright sunlight
in harsh white sunlight of a long ago spring

FDR has died but the show must go on   woozy
I long to seek respite in the schoolyard shade   
		I am the daisy
I have to dance   but who cares about the Maypole
these wilted flowers   now that the President is dead 

in our floral headdresses   we are the fresh flowers
of spring   we salute the flag   we sing our anthem
		I am the daisy
I flee to the sidelines   throw up in the heat 
run to the bleachers   hide under them in the shadows

I search for shade   darkness   quiet   children's
voices are loud and clear   I pledge allegiance
		I am the daisy
I have stained my pinafore   the petals paint my skin
paper flowers cannot endure our historical heat 

I wait for my grandmother   she takes my hand
leading me firmly from childhood   showing me its end
		I am the daisy
the petals I wear all fall away into hot silence 
the President is dead   the radio keeps on playing

Mary Herbert