Natasha Trethewey

Genus Narcissus

Faire daffadills, we weep to see / You haste away so soone.

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.