Songs of the Lupine
Long overdue, but I am finally sharing these poems from June, 2021, two of which were featured in the Finnish-African Literature Arts Project (FALA) by the Finnish-African Society at Oodi Library in Helsinki.
The Lupine is considered an invasive flower that doesn’t belong to Finnish nature. In this mini-series of poems, I use the lupine as a lens to think about immigration, migration and invasion.
When they call you Matu
You hide in a field with other alien flowers
Your cotton hair firmly stands next to tapered petals on a long stalk
The lupine reminds you of corn
You want to weep
You run your fingers on their silky wings
And wonder why some people hate all things different
When they are afraid of you
Because they have refused to know you
When they don’t see you beyond your covered head
and coloured skin
If you could scrub the black off your skin like new potatoes
Whether they would see you,
Whether they would want you then
I see you
And all the ways you gloriously shine
You are meant to be here, along with every other flower
2. Delinquent Flower
Someone somewhere saw you
Soar above the grass
Sway in a light breeze
Graceful and elegant
Like a giraffe.
Someone somewhere wanted you tame
They plucked your stem
And put you in a delicate vase
Picked your seed
Planted you in a garden
And now, you are everywhere.
Stomping boots into riverbeds,
The graffiti of flowers.
A wild thing,
How can something so beautiful be harmful?
Have you always been this way?
Do you really hurt butterflies?
Arm-wrestle delicate plants,
Steal their spotlight?
Or do we misunderstand you,
Plant you in the wrong place
then blame you for, being you?
3. Thirty years
When you realize you cannot kill me without hurting yourself,
will you still want to poison your soil
to keep your nature, true Finn?
Do my dark stalks scare you?
Do I seem too foreign?
Am I not pink enough,
or am I too purple?
How do I earn a place along the poor man's rose,
next to the grass by the highway?
Haven't I made you beautiful, too
Haven't I fed your birds and bees too,
Haven't I survived the freeze too,
Every autumn I beg you to take me to the place I am told is my home
But you are not strong enough to blow me past the vast ocean
You have sent me here again, to Vaasa
Helsinki and Savo
On roadsides and bus stands
I have drawn a map in my dreams
I have drifted there
Like a slow-moving raft dancing on deep blue waves
I have retraced my grandparents' steps
To a place, I am told I should belong
Why do you always bring me back here?
Every spring I open my petals
And let you sip my nectar
You draw my sweetness with a needle
Your kisses bruise but I need you
You know not how to give
But you sure can take
You flap your wings until they hum
You turn your head upside down
You speak in colour
Your feathers, metallic in the sun
You do not sing,
You dance, for you.
No perennial born of the soil dies
You have survived the coldest of frosts
You shoot off the ground when it thaws
Unafraid to start over
Look at you stand in the meadow
Your white, purple, pink floating on green,
You have beautiful colours,
But your true beauty lies in your resilience
You bloom where you are planted
And spread your energy far and wide
I do not want to remember the past
But it is etched on my skin
And written in my DNA
I do not want to admit I am afraid
So, I launched missiles at your daisies,
Crushed the forest stars
And spat on dandelions
I did not start a colonist
I just wanted to make a home
On your beautiful grasslands,
And forest beds
Next to violets and bluebells
Sometimes I forget I was once a guest
I take more than you can give
And cry that it is not enough
As if my right to exist has superseded yours
Can we start over?