‘Flowers’ by Wendy Cope

Some men never think of it.
You did. You’d come along
And say you’d nearly brought me flowers
But something had gone wrong.The shop was closed. Or you had doubts –
The sort that minds like ours
Dream up incessantly. You thought
I might not want your flowers.It made me smile and hug you then.
Now I can only smile.
But, look, the flowers you nearly brought
Have lasted all this while.

Today, this poem reminded me of the final line of one of Philip Larkin’s: “What will survive of us is love” (that’s from An Arundel Tomb.)
Flowers is such a heartbreaking piece. Wendy Cope has an incredible ability to create witty, often funny poems that are also profoundly melancholy. I love the way she uses the simple language of grief and evocative short sentences here, such as “It made me smile and hug you then” and “Now I can only smile.” This poem illustrates so beautifully the way we remember the thoughtfulness, the intentions and attentions of our loved ones, and not the material objects they might lavish upon us. Flowers are a particularly appropriate metaphor here, I feel, because flowers last such a short time. In this poem, the person’s intention to buy flowers for the speaker, and his rather adorable self-conscious doubts that she would want his flowers, is what has endured — this is what will always make the speaker “smile”, even after the person has gone.
And I find this ending so sweet and deeply touching: “look, the flowers you nearly brought/ Have lasted all this while”.

Reviewed by Emily Ardagh

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