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Feinberg, Julia, My Perennial Garden of Blank Flowers


Julia Feinberg
Age: 17, Grade: 12

School Name: Hewitt School, New York, NY
Educator: Miriam Walden

Category: Poetry

My Perennial Garden of Blank Flowers

A teacher instructed me to paint cut flowers 
freshly wilting, white, and blank 
as the paper they were dying against
so I painted the petals while they rejected my strokes
until I was forced to hear the words paint the flowers 
as impressions of the ideas they elided

Remembering the petal rejecting the watercolor paint
is to watch it cry and, through the persistence of memory, drown
inundated by the expectation of living which is to say I burden
the flower with the hope that I can change its form
that a desired state of being is practiced and looks nothing like paint
running imitation veins down my wrist
I study their disappearance in a sink drain and learn
my skin is skin but also petal

Now I know to write on the world is to write around it
to be a physical anomaly which is to say I observe the phenomenal
and, in the process, reduce myself to insignificance
as I dismiss my uncertainty as negligible and accept as constant
that everything was taught mercy at the beginning of the proven universe
and every person re-learns it alone at night

​I don’t forget by morning that I was taught
to let the waking-world affect me before I think to affect 
before I stop to think of a dying thing struggling
to assume air under the judgment of water,
or myself, as gorgeous