Daffodils at Twilight

Daffodils at Twilight by Margaret Chula

By Margaret Chula
Cover Photo by David Akoubian
88 pages, 6 X 9, perfect bound — $17.00
Published by Kelsay Books

Inheritance

In the attic of your dead mother’s house, you come across
your scrapbook of butterflies: sooty wings, swallowtails,
summer azures sealed in cellophane, their splayed wings

still holding a faint tint of pattern and color, like batik sarongs
scrubbed against rocks and laid out to dry in the Balinese sun
by generations of barefooted women.

Your fingers remember that satisfying crack of the swallowtail’s
thorax as you pressed it flat, and those summer evenings
cupping fireflies into a rancid mayonnaise jar, how you punched

tiny air holes in the lid and watched the lightning flicker all night
on your bedside table. In the morning, they lay heaped
at the bottom, like rubble in a graveyard.

How many things have you killed?

Legions of Japanese beetles plucked from your grandmother’s
rose bush, their iridescent copper and green helmets
daring you to disturb their gluttony.

What delight when their squirming legs pricked your fingers
as you plunked them into a can of kerosene. How patriotic
you felt killing those Japs.

And the army of ants, that sharp scent of lemon as you
squashed them with your new white Keds, then wiped
their corpses off in the grass before coming in for supper:

Nana’s prize Leghorn that she’d slaughtered, plucked,
and boiled to feed you and your four brothers and sisters.
She never let you see the bloody knife.

Broken

No matter how broke I was, I always had flowers.
Not long-stemmed roses, but carnations that smelled

like cinnamon, like Thanksgivings spent with my family,
no longer alone in my Boston walk-up worrying

about the old woman across the street staring out
the window with a half bottle of milk on the sill

or Mother sitting at the kitchen table Sunday nights
pasting S&H Green Stamps into books so she could buy

a new Electrolux—cleanliness more important to her
than, well, anything except appearances and privacy.

Even at ninety, when I brought her to Walmart,
she made me wait at the end of the aisle

while she bought Depends. Everything breaks down:
our brittle bones, skin puckered like rotted plums,

split ends in our thinning hair. And heartbreak—
too much heartbreak to bear—one day bleeding

into another and never enough Green Stamps
to replace what’s been broken.

These are poems of the earth and home, of flowers and dirt, memory and landscape, nostalgia linked up with desire. I admire their quietude and tenderness, part celebration and part elegy, the way they “keep their feet on the ground,” the way they “know better than to cut the blossoms.” — Joseph Millar, Author of Blue Rust

During her “wild in the woods” childhood, Margaret Chula pried back “the heads of Jack-in-the-pulpits / to witness the miracle.” All her life, she has “wanted // to find paradise in a place,” in what she encounters. And she does just that: her poems seek out and find the miraculous in the seemingly ordinary. Employing rich and resonant imagery, her work delves into and opens a lifetime of defining experiences. Line by line, each poem in Daffodils at Twilight is a woodland bloom, unfurling.. — Paulann Petersen, Oregon Poet Laureate Emerita