We’ll look at flowers common to wet meadows,
the naturalist says, as we follow a narrow
path between stands of unnamed grasses
and flowers typical of late August.
Like cardinals, someone says. Lobelia cardinalis,
the naturalist replies, and a woman carrying
an already-loaded basket leans over to pick one.
Leave it, I tell her and the naturalist mouths
a thank you, squints, pushes her glasses
back up her nose, used by Native Americans
for diarrhea or to get rid of worms, or treat syphilis.
I’m hers. It’s that simple. She tells us
how hummingbirds feed on the flower’s nectar,
how the plants survive by shoots and seeds.
I take pages of notes on jewelweed,
blue vervain, flowering spurge, her schedule,
cafés, what she likes in salad ingredients,
notes that will gray in my files, the name
I won’t remember. But flowers, she’s my Lobelia.
—Richard Roe, Middleton