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February 8, 2018 | Poetry

From, "COMPANY"

Emily Hunt

From, "COMPANY" photo

“We are going to be the Chipotle of flowers.”

– Production Manager, BloomThat, San Francisco, 2015

 

A lack of air.

A gathering of thorns,

a limpness, a distance to close,

a bent outlier unwilling

to lean or bounce toward

a more vacant center.

 

*

 

By the second week

the bouquets are delivered pre-made.

A pallet of tall boxes arrives

at the square door

and the truck drives away.

We walk over with clippers.

We snip each white plastic strip

to release them from each other.

Often, two of us lean in

to cut the same one.

 

*

 

We break down the stack,

lowering six from the top

then dispersing the base.

We pull black plastic buckets

out of the boxes

and dump the water from each

into larger, sturdier buckets.

We then pour this down

a slope of concrete

and the dark splash dries.

I often volunteer for this part,

as it enables me

to leave the group

for a minute or two,

to look into my phone

with my computer in mind.

 

*

 

Before each arrangement's inspection

we must remove a cone of clear wrap

and dispose of it.

This thin stuff won't crunch

flat or into a ball.

It immediately reopens

and will often skid

down the side of the trash can,

sparking with static

rather than falling fully into it.

It will hover near the top,

one of its edges

caught by the rim,

until something solid

like a handful of stems

or the dropped head of a rose

pushes it down.

 

*

 

We pick off brown petals we spot

and toss them into large, green

compostable bags

secured to trash bins

by giant rubber bands.

The bags are branded

with rippling logos.

They feel like flesh.

I have one glove to feel them.

This removal becomes so addictive

the roses grow narrow.

At the end of the line,

once they're wrapped and tied,

the pointed red roses

are hard and tight.

 

*

 

The stripping the thorns,

the gripping the wet

garden gray gloves,

the forcing them down

sturdy thick stems,

the shaking off

wet wasted leaves

into the bin.

The reaching for pale

plastic from each

deep white container.

Thorns in the skin

at the edge of the nail.

The sweeping up clippings

and squeezing cold foam.

The cold folding the foam,

the dipping the mass

into a cup then a bag

from a stack.

 

*

 

I was told on the first day

standing among

a herd of young women

I had met moments before

I could rise, if I worked

hard on the flowers

to be “the cream at the top.”

This was said not directly to me

but to all of us

gathered loosely around

a clean, silver table.

Someone on staff

could be swiftly promoted

like Leigh, our Manager,

said the Head of Production,

Sarah, the wife of one owner.

That person would make

fifty cents more per hour

and she would have

twice the responsibility.

 

*

 

I keep shifting the stems around

until they face forward

and lay flat.

The thorns and knobs

bump into each other

and throw it all off.

The worst are the kumquats,

which fall to the floor

as soon as I add them.

It isn't natural

for a thin stem with fruits

to sprout up –

they're heavy,

they're supposed to just hang.

They scatter, get smashed

and stick to my shoes.

I once had one and tasted the chemicals.

It was fine to eat the skin.

At the end of the shift,

my broom sticks and skids

across the places they've been.

 

*

 

When orders are placed

from various phones

in the city, they suddenly appear

on my station’s iPad,

entering their spots

like ghosts on the list

which is categorized

by neighborhood.

Certain drivers

take loaded boxes

to designated stretches

and quickly deliver

the bar-coded flowers.

The app tracks the action

as it happens.

For many hours

with striped stray ribbon,

blinking batteries,

extra labels, and scissors,

seated at a brand new folding table

in a barely used vehicle,

I watch the lists change

stepping out now and then

to look across the street

at pale, flat apartments

and the wild cold sea.

 

image: Emily Hunt


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