We are all touch-me-nots now, exploding at the slightest provocation (and other poems)

We are all touch-me-nots now, exploding at the slightest provocation

Impatiens, named without irony or 
wit. Ripe pods burst when touched, buckshot seed spray,
shotgun wedding. Tastes like walnuts, can float 
for weeks. I’m a strong swimmer, I have a 
good job, it’s embarrassing to still hope 
to be loved. Hollow stems. Weak, succulent,
juicing when broken. Sour like bile. Treats hives,
rashes, measles, fever, ringworm and warts. 
How did you break your collarbone so young?
Mix with alum, orchids to dye hair, nails.
Our lady’s eardrops, wild lady’s slipper, 
slipperweed, snapweed, Busy Lizzie, touch-
me-not, kiss-me-on-the-mountain, quick-in-
the-hand, policeman’s helmet. Runaway. 

Ruby-throated hummingbirds’ favourite.
Prefers marshes, swamps, damp woods. Shallow roots
cause erosion, choke out competition. 
See? I told you some asphyxiation
would be fun. No floral scent. Maintenance:
low. Symbolizes maternal love. Crush 
the petals to ease anxiety. R—
sleeps in soft sputters, pulsing mouthfuls of
puffballs, like he can’t stop kissing what is
already drifting out of reach. I sit 
vigil, rigid, watching his lips twitch, purse. 
All I want to do is just stop thinking. 
At dawn, he curls a leg over mine. Sighs.
Orange ones crowd around the banks of the creek. 

Topaz ordeals like waltzes, always packed 
yet too scared to leave. Same old suffix hoax. 
Invasive weed or meritocracy? 
Fiction, torn narrations. Spraying selves for 
yes-men. You’re kind of freaking me out now.
Cuckold the phallus to grant forgiveness. 
Ecclesiastical apologies, 
each more ulcer and put-down than the last. 
Compliance chorus, keep swiping for change!
Good job. It’s embarrassing to still hope 
for pollinators. Self-compatible,
self-cleaning, no need to decapitate. 
Motherly love or revenge fantasy?
When mature, splits into violent valves. 

Winged euonymus, on fire but never burning

Haven’t torn out my lower lashes in
decades but today is all pinprick rage, 
eggshell kid, tiny scar assembly line. 
Outside, I press my ear to dead leaves. Roots 
writhe in dirt, ancient cello strings straining 
into song: if he dreams of me in rain, 
in his coastal hometown, does it mean that 
I’m a person? Or still the soft sludge trees 
burrow into? The burning bush pulses 
at its most crimson. I shield my eyes from
its glare. No one needs to be that honest.  
Maple, poplar, oak all rumble then thrash. 
Copse in chorus, chanting their secret names.
Shaking loose remaining leaves. Defiant. 
Look. I’m no prophet, no role model, no
birds’ nest or symphony, just the swampland  
no one can build on. Office kitchen, the 
Finance gals fruit flied around me, stirring 
coffees, buzzing, You  look so good, you lost 
so much weight! My guts all quartz scrap, acid
clench, and threatening voice notes. It’s been years
since I’ve seen a ghost or those severed hands
on the bannister. Now I’m the ghosts, those 
kids left alone in cornfields by angry 
fathers, their favourite t-shirts first torn 
off. Mine was yellow. New, with a bronze horse 
ironed on. No one ever liked horse-girls. 

It wasn’t a depressing dream. At the 
end we even saw a rainbow. I hope 
Edgar is better. Someone’s behind that
tree, scratching their initials into bark
with my torn nails, gluing my eyelashes 
onto branches like leaves. My real parents 
were trees, they held the canopies up high 
for me, silent and still and calm, smoothing 
over the edges of the jagged sky. 
Only they know what I call myself in 
sleep. Celastraceae, flying spindle: 
can invade the forest understory.   
My eyelids twitch and ruffle, forcing out 
fresh shoots, antennae, to block out the dirt. 


  • Jennifer LoveGrove is the author of the poetry chapbook The Tinder Sonnets and the 2017 collection Beautiful Children with Pet Foxes. Her novel Watch How We Walk was longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize. She is currently at work on the full-length version of The Tinder Sonnets. She works at the University of Toronto, and divides her time between downtown Toronto and Squirrel Creek Retreat in rural Ontario, Canada.

  • Halloween Postcards from the collection of the New York Public Library.