077.1: Jesse Delong:: The Amateur Scientist’s Notebook: Floret 077

Jesse Delong’s poem wants it all. At once meditative, descriptive, and lyrical, the poem achieves its many accomplishments by being what its title promises: a notebook. With all the enthusiasm of an amateur, Delong’s poem suggests that the scientist who explores the floret is more interested in Swedenborg’s correspondences than a better nomenclature. Through Delong’s poetic notes, the floret becomes a vehicle for “revelation//by route of pigmentation”.

This “route” begins with the material, the gritty. Appropriate enough for the amateur scientist. But what brings Delong back again to the floret are the many paths toward examination. The sudden interruptions in a line of thought, often breaking into condensed stanzas, stage the unexpected revelation of the amateur observer gazing upon something at once object and subject. An example of this interruptive grammar occurs in the first section. A catalog of physical detail suddenly shifts into personal account: “Feathers, flora//I light a lamp, wick submitted/To kerosene…”.

Delong’s juxtapositions activate both the metonymic and metaphoric capacities of readers. In an effort to make sense of the interruption, we understand the floret is saturated with meaning, the “collage of a larger order”, and that the personal account belongs next to its mnemonic trigger. Yet there is an eerier—and more profound—sense of relationship between the floret and the speaker, one that would have the act of descriptive cataloging akin to the wick’s “submission” to a kind of intellectual fire: the world melts beneath our gaze. In “The Amateur Scientist’s Notebook: Floret,” Delong gives us glimpses of what we fail to see. Ryan Winet

The Amateur Scientist’s Notebook: Floret


In a simple sunflower begins the struggle
of scale. A floret. Sharp of petals, and stem-bright,

it starts in individuality while around sprouts
the collage of a larger order. Feathers, flora,

I light a lamp, wick submitted
to kerosene, in the room’s corner.
A horizon of dust furrows
near the bookshelf. Restless, I
withhold any offerings, any glance,
gasp, or grasp, as you settle into our sofa,
a sunflower plucked and lain on pink clovers.

phosphorus, water and light.

What is one is once lost. Torn, what was
once lost is emptied into astrophysics, a soil’s

You are expecting a gesture of sand
releasing its shape to water, a cloud bruising
in leaflets of rain, the distance
between our difference
a chrysanthemum-colored bee carriaging
spores from floret to floret.

swelled throat, a soil’s stomach
unlocked in consumption, root fibers
curling into a ribcage, minerals measuring the level

of light absorption on a leaf. Simply split,
the scattered separated from the stained.

Or to say

our ozone is an esophagus expanded, one
big swallow of air where particles of leaf, litter,
and clay collide in the fringes of tissue.


tissues of song,
     tissues of meat, wind, and root.


You say floret. Floret as flora, as flower.

Through a handful of clouds rattled the sky
like dust in a furnace. I walked outside to watch
the chrysanthemums keep sunlight in little boxes
on their petals. In the backyard, you were reading
under the house’s shade, and you would spend the day
trying to walk through all the doors I’d entered into.
Grass spoke a language too green for glare.
Even traffic noise clamped for a moment
its steel mouth. What is the shape taken
in the brain when restlessness finally
subsides? Still as your spine (you had put
the book aside and were sleeping
on a lawn chair) flowers lit near shade
and, entering where their shadows
rotated, I held their heads fragile
as rice paper between my fingers:
the open-eyed glow of flora on soil, their centers
fires sparked in thighs, and rough
as wristlines. I delicately rotated their bodies,
careful not to tremble, weary even of my own breath.


But you are not a flower—
For those sunflowers of May clarity strikes
everything a petal or stem displays, a revelation

by route of pigmentation, or the scriptures of shade
composed in vein on undergrowth. Thousands of florets,

I light a fire beside a river
to crave the shade your face keeps.
The sky tarnished in smoke, flames and ash.
When you grace the bank, lungs lit,
water drumming a tune our blood knows,
I announce the night
our god, no wind, no,
the moment: of flesh, heat, and hormones.

so tiny they squander intricacy on light cherished,
smoldering, gold with transparency, canvassing

their petal’s centers in the question
of what is hunger. Everything the soil supports

is foreseen in seed. In feathers, flora,
phosphorus, water and light. The land
laying out before summer like an exhalation.


Winter, then, is a breath held.
Stems form brittle, and birds forage for seeds.
Coyote bones splay on the river’s red bank.

What is meat if I am
always restless, and restless enough to scavenge
(a chickadee sings somewhere in the snow-
covered trees, its voice a whistle and whistle’s echo.
The moth may have been dead on the windowsill for days.)
for those who won’t hold throat through frost?

I light my position near the snow globe
you gifted me during a relatively soft winter.
Its glass is chipped and the base
has worn an eclipse on the windowsill’s pale wood.
In the stained fingers
of a retreating day, the sky mirrors on the crest
of its dome, clouds swelled, and birds
shadowing wings upside down in ascension.

A tree slowly turns phosphorescent in oxygen,
sleets of light.
An insect sings its last lift of wings
electric in the cooling air.

If I look past the dome,
the window lightens, pans out,
and land emerges in chalklines, a spine
of hills narrowing to strips, ridges sharpened
where the sky has lit its paper ends.

A single floret of smoke points onward.