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By Lee Ann Roripaugh

I always forget the name,

delphinium,

even though it was the flower


the hummingbirds

loved best. They came in pairs—sleek,

emerald-bright


heads, the clockwork machinery

of their blurred wings

thrumming swift, menacing engines.


They slipped their beaks.

as if they were swizzle sticks, deep

into the blue


throat of delphinium and sucked

dry the nectar-

chilled hearts like goblets full of sweet,


frozen daiquiri.

I liked to sit on the back porch

in the evenings,


watching them and eating Spanish

peanuts, rolling

each nut between thumb and forefinger


to rub away

the red salty skin like brittle

tissue paper,


until the meat emerged gleaming,

yellow like old

ivory, smooth as polished bone.


And late August,

after exclamations of gold

flowers, tiny


and bitter, the caragana

trees let down their

beans to ripen, dry, and rupture—


at first there was

the soft drum of popcorn, slick with oil,

puttering some-


where in between seed, heat, and cloud.

Then sharp cracks like cap

gun or diminutive fireworks,


caragana

peas catapulting skyward like

pellet missiles.


Sometimes a meadowlark would lace

the night air with

its elaborate melody,


rippling and sleek

as a black satin ribbon. Some-

times there would be


a falling star. And because

this happened in

Wyoming, and because this was


my parents’ house,

and because I’m never happy

with anything,


at any time, I always wished

that I was some-

where, anywhere else, but here.


Lee Ann Roripaugh, “Happy Hour” from Year of the Snake. Copyright © 2004 by Lee Ann Roripaugh. Reprinted by permission of Southern Illinois University Press.

Source: Year of the Snake (Southern Illinois University Press, 2004)

  • Living
  • Nature
  • Relationships

Poet Bio

Lee Ann Roripaugh
A Wyoming native and second-generation Japanese American, Roripaugh studied music, earning a BM in piano performance and an MM in music history before earning an MFA in creative writing from Indiana University, Bloomington. In 2015 she was appointed poet laureate of South Dakota. 

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