Issue No. 19, Winter 2016

Flowers That Fly
Raquel Vasquez Gilliland

Once, before certain plants
had learned to vine, bees sprang
from the feet of men, and from women,
flowers. No one knows why.
It was just the way things were.

Perhaps eleven thousand years ago,
bees stopped flying up from
men’s footprints. Men, stricken
with longing and loss, left to find
where their bees had gone.

They wandered for ages
and along the way, they came
upon a cinnamon mountain that
croaked and creaked anytime a cow
or mare or nanny goat stepped
near it.

By then, men’s longing
had turned to anger. Finding
no bees, they blamed the flowers
for their loss.

Each sunset lily and gold dandelion
and blue-tipped thistle and sweet
foam yarrow reminded them
of warm, wet earth. It reminded
them that their feet no longer birthed
wings.

They saw, too, that the great
cinnamon mountain groaned
when flowers neared it. They took
this to mean it was wise
and holy.

They set a town at the valley
and built a gate around
the spiced mountain.
They marked it as forbidden
for women, cows, mares
and nanny goats to touch.

This rule governed the sacred
Mount Cinnamon for seven
hundred and thirty decades.
In that time, flowers, too,
were declared offensive,
and all women and girls
were ordered to enclose their feet
with leather.

Women couldn’t even touch
cinnamon ground from mountain
trees. They made their rolls
and pudding and pies with gloves,
and the men enjoyed hot-spiced
treats most evenings.

A girl of thirteen named Inona
once tasted a fingerful of cinnamon.
It reminded her of deep summer
and distant trees and she thought
she heard the mountain groan
her name.

She approached the mountain
priests, who, by then had also
sworn to never touch any female
creature, and asked them a question.

Most high sirs, if no lady
should touch the great holy
brown mountain of cinnamon,
then what about the moon’s
spiral light?

Indeed, the mountain did let
out a long, low grunt with every
full moon. The priests, who up
until that point had accused some
chicken or mare or woman of
crossing the threshold monthly,
saw the child was right and set
about rivering the mountain
with silk before the next full moon.

And while they wove
and argued and tangled their silk
veils, the girl Inona leapt
over the gate. She was halfway up
the mountain when she ripped
the leather from her feet.

Flowers poured from the prints
of Inna’s feet, gasping with life.
Streams of magenta clovers
and sunny chrysanthemums
and wild lavender roses
and fiery strawflowers streamed
up the mountain. Indeed, rather
than silk, the mountain became
rivered with color.

The mountain creaked until it sounded
like thousands of round rusted bells.

The men dropped their silks
and ran after Inona, but it was too late.
She’d reached the top. This is where
the land shook and tore just a sliver.
Strange light rose from the mountain
cut, and out flew butterflies.
All the world’s butterflies. No one
had ever seen such a thing before,
so everyone thought they were flowers
in flight.

No one knows why
fluttery petals of emeralds
and sea foam blues and honey ambers
came from that crack in the earth.
This is just how it was.

And from that moment on,
flowers stopped growing at the feet
of women. You see, one girl
had given her foot-wings
to the earth. Because of her,
we have flowers that fly.


Raquel Vasquez Gilliland is a painter and poet inspired by myth and folklore, lupine and quartz. She lives in Florida with her husband and son. More of her work can be seen at raquelvasquezgilliland.com.

  • Ruth Asch

    What rich and charming myth!