Cauterize the stems and the sap stays inside, keeps them pretty, keeps decay away for another day or two or three. At least that’s what you heard about poppies. Now you think you can do it to everything, like the calla lilies that begin to kneel only a few days after you buy the plant, golden heads bowing to follow legs going soft.

            You can’t just let them die. You pull the roots out of the pot (or Mia does because you

can’t stand to feel how they’ve turned to mush in your care) and try to untangle but it all looks the same, and you don’t know your way around wires, so how can you know which cut is the cure-


            Repot, add rocks for drainage, but still no fix. 

            The issue can’t be overwatering because you only just bought them, remember, but it isn’t neglect because their stems are soft, pulpy, like maybe they have enough to drink but it’s the wrong thing, or the wrong pot, the wrong acrylic paint on terra cotta and maybe you blocked their airways by sealing it— 

            and anyway, if you cauterize the stems the sap stays inside, keeps them pretty, keeps in

the water you might have suffocated them with. You get to them just in time to preserve their heads. Take lime green Bic lighter to the point where each neck connects and watch sap burn, sizzle. Do it to all five—you only lost one, when it doubled over and fell to the floor at your first gentle caress of its unique mono-petal, leaving you shocked at your own touch. 

            Cover the bottom of a Tupperware in silica sand. Flood every crevice and coat the spadix,

porous granules to turn blooms paper-thin. 

            Mia says you should do it to poppies. She mentions this on the drive past the roundabout full of them because they disintegrate after a day in a vase on the table. But you can’t look at

them the same way, not after that dream where you microwaved bright sunrise Californias and picked them from the plate, one by one, until remembering with nonsensical matter-of-fact dream knowledge that this was a recipe for death, and suddenly there you were, holding limp stems like reheated french fries, a dozen already in your stomach. 

            You’d rather do it to another lily, another calla, this time snipped from a yard down the street, and you know you probably shouldn’t have done it, and this one is white and luminous and that bell-shaped petal is so large that the brown spot on the corner is hardly noticeable (you surely didn’t see it from the street), but maybe if you lived in that house you would dwell on it, pick the bloom apart by the hour. 

            You don’t really know what you’ll do with it—it’s a bit big for Tupperware, and you haven’t tried to hang dry any of these just yet—but guilt arises when you take flame to stem and it's far too thick to burn easily, and so you cut it just a bit higher to get to the thin spot but taking scissors to this stem is like biting through your pinky, which you can’t do, you guess, because

your body won’t let you, 

            and you can’t cut this lily, because your body won’t let you, 

            and the poppies are in your stomach, 

            and you have tried too hard to keep the sap inside.

            You can cauterize the stem and listen to it sizzle for a full five or fifteen minutes, or you can let the end dry like bad pieces of asparagus you throw out at dinner, or you can give up on the backbone, cut off the head, bury what you can in silica until it’s sucked dry and paper-thin, until

it is so light that this chrysalis return gives 

            all the air in the world 

            to carry it.



Notes on Preservation

by Sophie Hall

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Sophie Hall

Sophie Hall writes creative nonfiction and poetry about collage and clutter, even though she is somewhat of an organized person these days. Her work has appeared in Jeopardy Magazine. You can find her preserving flowers while forgetting to water her orchid.

Payment can be given at @sophieuhmanda on Venmo