like little paper lanterns
pink, purple, scarlet, orange, white.
Not thorny—acacia’s thorny—
bougainvillea is spiny, aggressive,
bush or vine, can take over a yard
while your back is turned. Bougainvillea will bite your hand
if pruned carelessly.
Bougainvillea taught me respect.
The pink smell over-sweet, heavy
compared to white. Both have centers the soft gold
of a half-cooked egg yolk. Milky sap: they can’t be cut
and put in water, so the petals bruise
and fade in minutes. Your airport lei
by the time you reach your hotel, will be
fragrant trash. The pink ones taught me transience.
The white ones taught me memory.
III. Madagascar flamboyant
in our backyard, a tall tree, massive spreading branches
drenching our house in shade. Woody seed pods
They bloomed at Christmas, whole groves turning hillsides
from dun to scarlet, savannahs blazing without flame.
Flamboyants taught me brilliance.
Available! High-Voltage Lines, Knocking from Inside