Natasha Trethewey

Genus Narcissus

    Faire daffodils, we weep to see
    You haste away so soone.
              —Robert Herrick 

The road I walked home from school 
was dense with trees and shadow, creek-side, 
and lit by yellow daffodils, early blossoms 

bright against winter’s last gray days. 
I must have known they grew wild, thought 
no harm in taking them. So I did—

gathering up as many as I could hold, 
then presenting them, in a jar, to my mother. 
She put them on the sill, and I sat nearby, 

watching light bend through the glass, 
day easing into evening, proud of myself 
for giving my mother some small thing. 

Childish vanity. I must have seen in them 
some measure of myself—the slender stems, 
each blossom a head lifted up 

toward praise, or bowed to meet its reflection. 
Walking home those years ago, I knew nothing 
of Narcissus or the daffodils’ short spring—

how they’d dry like graveside flowers, rustling 
when the wind blew—a whisper, treacherous, 
from the sill.  Be taken with yourself , 

they said to me;  Die early , to my mother.