I’m fourteen. Big enough to work at the florist’s shop on Saturday mornings. There are orders to make up. I’m learning how to make a funeral wreath. The frame is shaped like a donut. I’d love a donut right now. Cover the wire with grease proof paper and fill it with moss from the big hessian bag in the cool room. I bet the morgue is like that creepy room. Keep watching what I do. I wire shiny camellia leaves together, like the paper dolls we used to fold. Keep the leaf tips neat. One inch apart. Miss Slater is getting old. She’s always drinking stuff from the Health Food Shop.
Blue hydrangeas come next, resurrected in a bucket. I wonder how the person died. Hydies drink through their heads. Remember that, my girl. Now the part where I can be creative. Miss Slater gives me a vase of roses. Pick off the dead leaves and petals. No one wants old blooms. I turn the remaining petals over, revealing the buds. They look like dancers with swirling skirts. I add some fern. Stand to admire my work. It’s much nicer than hers. I hope the dead person isn’t cremated. Wait a minute. Miss Slater grabs a corsage of yellowing gardenias. Plonks it in. Hands me more fern. That’s better. It only needs to last a day or so.
my masterpiece jabbed
right through the heart
She pays me ten shillings for the morning’s work. This afternoon I’ll catch the tram to Saint Kilda. Go ice skating. Forget about morgues, funerals and dead people.
a long time to go
before I’m old
Listen to Hazel reading ‘How to make a funeral wreath’ (3:10).
Hazel Hall is a Canberra poet and musicologist. Her work has been published in many Australian and overseas journals and anthologies. Recent collections are Step By Step: Tai Chi Meditations with Angie Egan (Picaro Poets 2018). Moonlight over the Siding (Interactive Press 2019) and Severed Web (Picaro Poets 2020).
© text and audio 2020