Legacy of African Violets

"African violet (Saintpaulia)," by mk2010, via Wikimedia Commons.

“African violet (Saintpaulia),” by mk2010, via Wikimedia Commons.

I went wild over this poem from Tricia Knoll, and I’ve never owned an African violet. I think you will feel the same. She was kind enough to let me share it with you today. You might also wish to check out her chapbook “Urban Wild”–it’s full of goodies.

–Sandra Knauf


Legacy of African Violets

I owned up late to an inheritance of African Violets,
flirty-skirt blooms on fleshy stems. Fifty years
to finger plastic-potted posies I wrote off. Too Norman Rockwell,
lazy-girl gifts for the frail elderly, not for mothers of newborns.
A pick-and-grab of metallic foil and a humble bow. Cheap.

My grandmother’s and my mother’s violets showed off indoors
after their roses browned out. In sunny windows on a mahogany table,
each rested in a cereal bowl to catch leaks. They chose colors
of apricots and watermelons, maybe an edging of white.
My grandmother’s sat prissy below an oil lamp turned electric
that dripped crystal prisms, flitting dancing rainbows
in the sun. Blooms and light shows.

My mother picked a leather-topped table for winter, then moved them
to the black wrought-iron table with a glass top on the summer porch
beside her folded crossword puzzle, a pen with blue ink,
and a bowl of jelly beans.

Modesty, the Victorians said of violets. I’d say temperance,
Not too much water, just enough morning sun. Water-soluble fertilizer.
Plush earlobe leaves listening to quiet violins.

Last fall I tired of sweeping up after an asparagus fern in my laundry room.
The sun angle was right for violets, I knew that from living
with those women. My picks had furred teddy bear leaves
and blooms of lavender and mother of pearl. I pinch off spent blooms
and dead leaves, thumbnail and forefinger, a woman-gesture
I’ve seen a million times.

My polite fauna-kittens don’t mind bows,
do nicely without them, thrive
in slow-hand clock turns toward light
to rebalance and bloom
and rebloom as if growing old is easy.

* * *


Tricia Knoll is a Portland, Oregon poet who has maintained a garden all her life, sowing the seeds of sanity. She grew up admiring her mother’s roses and vegetable garden. She is an Oregon State University Master Gardener. Her chapbook Urban Wild is available from Amazon and focuses on interactions between humans and wildlife in urban habitat. Her book Ocean’s Laughter will be out from Aldrich Press in spring of 2016. The poetry in Ocean’s Laughter reflects on environmental issues related to a small town on the Oregon coast. For links to many published poems, visit website: triciaknoll.com


Filed under Garden Writers We Love

2 responses to “Legacy of African Violets

  1. I love this poem! It brings back memories of my maternal grandmother, Mary Barron Moore, who maintained a garden in the windows of her small home until the day she died. I have gardened for many years but only now have violets living beside sunny windows.

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