May Snow

Untitled from Art Concret (centerfold), Jean Helion

The yellowwood blossoms have lost this vaguely citrus scent

and graupeln the grass. Some drift across the driveway’s black

river and arrange—yes, flowers arranging themselves—into

bars of white crisps. And they will not melt in the first warm

snap of May, and that is why I prize them amid the complement

of the cicadas, their chirring strangely making for this

bracing air as I scoop up a handful of yellowwood blossoms

to spruce up a tired bowlful of potpourri. Once it looked and

smelled nice new in the cellophane bag. The pinecones, cinnamon

sticks, the dried rosebuds, the waterlily pods going

dot-dot-dot for all the rest are so dusty. Tossing them (just

like a salad, that’s all you do) only freshens the colors so long

and teases a few death rattles out of their faded glory. My

mother would spray a little furniture polish, pour some bay

rum, and tap out some tinned cinnamon to help her bowl

when company was coming. But any potpourri recipe devolves

into an odorless still-life of itself, a pose that promises

to smell like heaven, like the May snow if you open the window

on an unrelenting choir, the way it frisks in the treetops,

like a swarm of black flies, red-eyed over its meat, holding an

almost human word, cold, holding it up to its highest note.