Otherwise Known

by Diana Brodie

My room feels crowded, stuffy,
and I open windows wide.
The tallest officer stands close
as he stares out at my garden.
He asks the names of flowers
and trees: Sophora, walnut,
sweet chestnut. He points
to the flame-coloured flowers
pressed against the wall –
Fritillaria imperialis, I reply,
otherwise known as crown imperials.
It seems someone has died, alone,
whose name I have never heard.
And in another continent.
I do not know, I say.
No relative of mine.
I hope you trace his family,
he had a sister, did you say?
They thank me for my time, drive off.
Left on my own, I know. I know.
I pick up the phone, call them,
tell them that I know. I know.