Cardinal Flower

Red cardinal flower (Wikipedia Commons)


Cardinal Flower

Red flash—
a few sprigs

puncture the monotony
of brown-green bog,

never-ending evergreens
and skeletons of cedar.

I know you,
skulking in the wetlands

between bridge and dam,
around the island,

beneath the boulder’s shoulder,
under jack pine.

When I pull you up,
your grace drains fast—

I replant you in a box
outside my window.

Spindly girl, you must need something wild
I cannot provide—

you refuse to root for long. Oh
well. I’ll just sit here, drinking

in your pure, red element
for a few days

while you struggle
to stay alive.


Mary Dean Lee grew up in Milledgeville, Georgia, the hometown of Flannery O’Connor. She studied theatre and literature at Duke University and Eckerd College (Florida), before receiving her PhD in organizational behaviour at Yale University. As a professor in the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University, she has published in Harvard Business Review, Psychology Today and many academic journals. Her poetry has appeared recently in Hamilton Arts and Letters and The Tishman Review. She lives in Montréal, Canada.