my friend A and i were driving along
the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware
River one june afternoon when we saw
a homemade sign advertising irises
for sale. always on the lookout for
something unusual, we followed the
arrows to a modest home by the side
of the road wherea mother and her
daughters were outside digging irises
for those of us who could not resist.
their home and "garden" sat on the
ancient flood plain of the river. "what
beautiful soil this must be, i thought."
but i did not envy the anxiety they must
experience every spring when the river
rises or summer thunderstorms bring
there were no other flowers on the property,
just a long rectangle of bearded iris
planted in straight rows."five dollars a plant,
any one you like" we were told.
until that day i never thought i could like,
let alone be entranced by a black flower.
but i could not leave this one behind.
true, it is not entirely black. it is the play
of bronze, gold and plum-purple with the
black falls that drew me to it.
"this one please," and i stood next to it
until one of the daughters came and
dug it up for me and plopped it into a
used brown-paper grocery bag.
it took two years for the plant to recover
and flower again for me, but once it got
over the shock of being dug "in flower"
and settled into its new soil it has increased
very nicely and produces dozens of flowers
every year, just about now.