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Flowers and Water Poem By Nancy Vieira Couto

Flowers and Water Poem By Nancy Vieira Couto

The Social Biology of the Vespucci
whose name derives from vespa, which has nothing
to do with scooters, although some of the cousins
were said to spin their wheels, and which has nothing
to do with vespers or the evening star,
though there were some stars among them:

for example, Marco’s bride, the breathing
pulse of Primavera and the living
Venus, in Botticelli’s version
vibrant with light, only to be, soon after,

out like a light. DaVinci walked beside
her coffin. All Florence was in love with her.
But any entomologist will tell you
the truth about the vespa, all ten
thousand varied tribes of opportunists:

how males pick up females at the usual
watering spots lush with flowers, how workers
cluster about the queen, who can never
safely turn her back on all the biting,

stinging, slender-waisted pretenders
vaunting love on the wing. As for Amerigo,
it was natural, his fascination with bodies
of water spilling their outlines
across old charts, fantasias, their ruffled
bays and inlets curling up the vellum
beaches like flourishes on a page
of calligraphy. Natural to pay

a gonfalonier’s ransom for a cartographer’s
rendering of the Mediterranean’s breadth
and depth. Natural that later, living in Spain,

he shifted his opportunistic mind westward
across the swelling ocean toward peninsulas
and trees and birds and people never yet
possessed by European tongues. As for
America, our heroine, she inherited
all the waspish ways, scooting from flower
to flower, country to country, lover to lover,

and ending up in Ogdensburg, a brutally,
normal American town on a waterway,
where she walked a careful path between the roses
and hollyhocks behind the garden wall,

having, as they say, made her bed
and learning to accept love where she found it.

Nancy Vieira Couto
first published in Shenandoah, vol. 51, nos. 2–3,
Summer/Fall 2001

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