The Geranium

A poem by Theodore Roethke

Theodore Roethke was one of the most distinguished and widely read American poets of the twentieth century. 


When I put her out, once, by the garbage pail,

She looked so limp and bedraggled,

So foolish and trusting, like a sick poodle,

Or a wizened aster in late September,

I brought her back in again

For a new routine-

Vitamins, water, and whatever

Sustenance seemed sensible

At the time: she'd lived

So long on gin, bobbie pins, half-smoked cigars, dead beer,

Her shriveled petals falling

On the faded carpet, the stale

Steak grease stuck to her fuzzy leaves,

(Dried-out, she creaked like a tulip.)


The things she endured! -

The dumb dames shrieking half the night

Or the two of us, alone, both seedy,

Me breathing booze at her,

She leaning out of her pot toward the window.


Near the end, she seemed almost to hear me -

And that was scary -

So when that snuffling cretin of a maid

Threw her, pot and all, into the trash-can,

I said nothing.


But I sacked the presumptuous hag the next week,

I was that lonely.

2019, Central Coast Geranium Society (CCGS )