Sunday, 6 December 2015

clouds and alstroemeria

the window had been left open 
and the room was cold, athough,
as fresh as a flower ...

I felt light headed and lay down
on the half-made bed, where
the fragrance of laundered cotton 
stirred to mind a slumbering memory,
of the sheets that mother and I
would hang on the clothesline ...

in winter, they were so stiff
we would fold them like cardboard 
when we took them down ...
she'd iron them completely dry
and perfectly pressed,

smelling – so clean –
the way, I imagined,
fluffy clouds would smell 
if you could bury your face in them ...

and then, today, as I rested quietly,
it came back to me and fell
in delicate heart-shaped petals
flecked with crimson drops in icy mists:
white alstroemeria – delivered 
in flurries of snow and billowing sheet sails ...

I remember carrying the little bouquet
to my mother as she lay, on her bed
silent and tear-stained though, 
to this day, I don't know why ....

forever, to remain for me
a mystery, she took with her to her grave

notes:  posted for Poets United.

Alstroemeria is also known as the Peruvian Lily, or Lily of the Incas and comes in many colors and species.   During the long, cold winter, the blooms are a popular florist flower in Canada because the delicate cut-flowers will last up to three weeks and, to me, look much more like a spring flower than a winter florist flower.

photo:  Clouds and Alstroemeria - W. Bourke

© 2015 Wendy Bourke


  1. Oh, there really is something wonderful about the smell of clothes / sheets / etc. dried on a clothesline. For me now, it has been so long ago; but I remember strongly. The story you told is definitely a mystery. Perhaps good that there is no answer....some things are better not known, I think.

    1. Yes the smell of sheets, fresh from a winter clothesline ... wonderful ... for me, and many others, I'm sure, a fragrance that is so associated with childhood: clothes dryers, having just about eliminated that scent from our lives.

      Children, I think, tend to feel that they know everything about their parents - but that is an illusion. I don't think we know everything about anyone - and that is likely, for the best. People share what they want you to know - but, no matter how close you are to someone, you shouldn't have to share everything. We all have a right to some personal space.

  2. I love that fresh sheet smell! And remember sheets frozen stiff out on the line in intriguing mystery about those flowers and your mother.....beautiful poem, Wendy.

  3. Memories do creep up on us don't they... wonderfully expressed.

  4. Excellent poem that bring back memories of those fresh wind dried clothes and the smells, also being a little boy playing around those hanging clothes the adventure triggered by the imagination as they blew in the breeze.

  5. A simple but very nostalgic poem. Nicely written.

  6. Oh this has to be one of my favorite of yours. You lead us so gently from the memory and smell of sheets to the flowers and that last stanza to the child trying to console her mother... There is both a closeness and a chasm between parents and child... Simply wonderful

  7. A beautiful, emotional, love filled poem and has a soft ,warm touch.

  8. A beautiful, emotional, love filled poem and has a soft ,warm touch.

  9. Smell does stir memories...I like the associations created in the poem with fragrance, flowers and mystery in a beautiful flow...

  10. the juxtaposition of laundered sheets with these flowers I shall always make now when I see them - beautiful vignette of connections and the broken thread of unknowing at the end

  11. That link with your mother through the ironing is so emotive. What a beautiful piece of poetry this is.

  12. i like how the clean sheets and the flowers can evoke such warm memories of of the times with your mother. and i think it is right that you did not press for the answers to the mystery.
    an excellent poem, Wendy. i totally enjoyed it!

  13. Such a tender piece - so vivid i could is strange how people can be in our lives for so long and yet do we really know them? perhaps it is 'normal' not to reveal ever part of ourselves...however hard it is on those we love..and may want to know..

  14. Indeed we have a lot of memories associated with clean sheets and flowers as well. Beautifully executed :)

    Lots of love,

  15. Love! How you conflate the smell of fresh air stirred sheets, memory of winter-frozen sheets, petals, flurries of snow, and wind--wow, so layered with softness, heat and cold, life and death! This poem has become my favorite of yours, Wendy.

  16. luv the lil bit of mystery; clouds are one of my favourite passions for staring, i think they are just made for that. These lines for me are so appealing
    "the way, I imagined,
    fluffy clouds would smell
    if you could bury your face in them ..."

    and thank you for dropping in at my Sunday Lime

    much love...

  17. A very beautiful, tender poem – although I am unfamiliar with that flower. You reminded me of my own mother in my own childhood, treating the washing just like that. :)

  18. Evocative with a touch of mystery. A lovely piece, and I agree with Bjorn, one of my new favorites of yours. Wonderful. I like alstros, too. I used to work for a florist and remember how plentiful they were in many bouquets for the reasons you mentioned. Makes me want to pick some up!

  19. A beautiful heartfelt poem. The scent of fresh sheets and flowers stirs emotions and brings a sense of wonderment.

  20. Wendy, what a sweet poem and memory. Thanks for the description of the flower. I had never heard of it. I can relate with you about the curiosity of the things our mothers take to the grave. I'm sure our children will never know all about us either. (Sorry for the late comment.)