Lit/South Awards 2022
Poetry Competition – Honorable Mention

Amie Whittemore

If No One Opens Us, We’ll Thirst

I picked up zinnias at the farm
and because she was with me
and we had fresh salsa to eat,

cherry tomatoes that tasted
just like summer afternoon
rain, I put them in water

without trimming the stems.
Two days later, they sag
with thirst, unable to drink—

I forgot the fundamental rule
of bouquets: you must open
the wound to extend the bloom.

I’m not sure this is a rule
for everything and if it is,
I’m not sure what to do with it.

The young couple next door
is arguing again—she wants to be
a good wife, he says he didn’t

buy oxy, he’s still clean as soap.
I want to tape a note to their
front door: walk away.

Though I’m trying to enter
a new season where I don’t
barricade love, make it sleep

on the stoop, I haven’t lost
my faith in cutting losses.
My high school English teacher

often proclaimed no one should
marry until forty, advice,
like all advice, I’m sure she wished

she followed herself, married
young and stuck in our small town.
We don’t realize how needful

we are. I feel terrible
about the zinnias, like I’m the one
who killed them, though they were dead

the moment I saw them, troughed
in the farm shed, pink and orange—
the color of my aura, she said.

She keeps entering poems the way
water enters roots. I won’t stop it.
Stop it, I want to say to the couple

whose wounds leak through
our shared wall, sharp and sallow.
We have everything to lose.