From Issue 18: "Boy With Flowers In His Mouth" by Phillip Watts Brown (Poetry)

Reading time: Approximately 3 minutes

I was first drawn into Phillip Watts Brown's poem by the gentleness of the imagery in the soft couplets. It perfectly captures, for me, the innocence of a boy's questioning and the tragedy of wanting a conversation that never happens. Both eloquent and heart-rending, "Boy With Flowers in His Mouth" is one of our Pushcart Nominees for 2020, and we were excited to publish it in Issue #18. 

If you'd like to hear it read by the poet, a Soundcloud recording can be found through our website.

Let us know your thoughts by posting over at our Facebook page, or reaching out to us on Twitter. And as always, thanks for reading!

Mare Heron Hake

Poetry Editor



Boy With Flowers in His Mouth


By Phillip Watts Brown


Everyone can tell
he’s a boy who blooms.

Can’t talk without petals falling,
soft evidence against him.

He bites down on stems
keeping quiet, the taste

both bitter and floral:
a terrible summer.

Shame unfurls in the silence,
his body a greenhouse

flush with desire. A dozen
questions blossom on his tongue.

No one will explain this.
No one will name the flowers.


reprinted with the permission of the poet

Phillip Watts Brown had this to say about his poem:

The initial spark for this poem happened when I came across a photo with the simple caption “boy with flowers in his mouth.” Like many gay men, I was always self-conscious about my voice and how it might out me. The idea of holding flowers in the mouth—something that would both draw attention and make it difficult to speak—really embodied that tension. I think the plant imagery is also my effort to see sexuality as natural, beautiful. Mostly, though, this poem explores how strange and lonely adolescence can be, especially for LGBTQ+ youth, surrounded by so many silences.

Phillip Watts Brown lives with his husband in Logan, Utah, where he works at an art museum and writes poems during lunchbreaks.