Quibbling Strangers Confuse the Hydrangea

From the collection And Don’t Come Back, 2021.

Quibbling Strangers Confuse the Hydrangea

does not rhyme with
I puzzle out how it could:
something like
high drain jer?
unless of course we’re saying
stran juh for stranger? Oh my head.
I don’t care what the rhyme book says
it comes from England
I don’t. Not ever in my life
do hydrangea and stranger even associate
much less
hold hands and skip down the sound-alike street
and by the way, look
at this nice hydrangea outside my back door
(say high dran juh
like we do here where this one is planted –
high dran juh)
I especially love the time of year
when it blossoms pale green to pink
although I’m very partial to
its rusty purple season as well –
never a stranger
to me.


15 thoughts on “Quibbling Strangers Confuse the Hydrangea

    • This poem came about because I have a Penguin rhyming book, so it does things the British way, something I finally figured out with this actual pair of words that were presented as rhyming. Yes, to British English speakers who put er at words we say a to, but not to me. OMG, I had some fun with that book after that looking for other differences.

  1. This is wonderful. Rhymes are so tied to accents. They don’t rhyme for me either but I liker the sound of them together. And I love hydrangeas in and if themselves. (K)

    • I got started on this from my Penguin rhyming book which is of course doing things the British English way. Oh so confusing to me this pairing of these two words, until I realized why (my avid reading of British crime fiction for decades has clued me in to the er vs a ending being the same sound to them but not to us in the US). It’s intriguing to me, just what you said, people’s accents, expecially since I have lived most of my life in a placd where my accent marks me as not being from the area.

      • Yes the Philadelphia accent is quite distinctive. Much like the one from Baltimore (Ballmur) where I lived some of my adolescent years.

        • I’ve never picked up the accent here except for some words, I guess, but I have taken the rhythms of the speech all right. Or maybe I was already doing it when I came and just found that I fit in (unlike in Tennessee, I was always running people down with my in your face style there).

  2. This poem made me chuckle as I thought to myself, when reading the opening lines, that I can think of people for whom those two words would rhyme – one of them being my husband – and then further down the poem you mentioned the explanation for my thought because my husband has an English RP accent. They don’t remotely rhyme for me with my Scottish accent. Incidentally, one of my sisters has a sort of phobia about hydrangeas. She associates them with death and decay.

      • I don’t believe it is a tradition or superstition either. She has found them creepy since childhood so even she has no idea. My theory is that it is because of the way they decay around the edges and the way the colour fades over time. It’s a sort of slow process of them wilting. But who knows! Our youngest brother has a sunflower phobia and we have no idea where that came from either.

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