My love arrived with tulips, ‘ten for a fiver’,
picked up from the supermarket at the end of the street.
Fresh off the plane, perhaps he would have preferred
to wash his hands but stood in his coat in the kitchen
watching me cut through the cellophane
and crush the stems with the stainless heel of the bread-knife.
All across Holland trucks were going to and fro
between the flower farms and distribution facilities
rocking their harvest to sleep over good Dutch tarmac
so every bunch could be in store before it opened its eyes,
and even as I filled the vase, people on nights
were dumping crates of slender-headed replacements
cut so premature they didn’t know what kind they were
in tubs of glucose solution up and down Holloway Road.
Soon these too would speak the international language of flowers
and be the thing someone can’t find the words to say,
carrying on with the business of tulips, ripening through
the colourful inconvenience of their visit
into a blousy, brittle, burnt black-burgundy arrangement
of decay, like mine, too tongue-twisted to throw out.