He picks up the latest issue of Poetry, reads it on the subway:
in his mother's garden, magnolia, hibiscus,
azalea, peony, pear, tulip, iris;
The words are meaningless to him, because he's never learned the names of flowers, can't identify them at all. Oh, he knows the rose of course, and he can identify sunflowers thanks to Van Gogh, and bloody daffodils, but beyond that he draws a blank. He has no idea, for instance, what a white hawthorn is, or an eglantine. And as for telling an azalea from a peony, forget it. (Is it possible to be flower blind? he wonders).
Not that this is his only failing. He's no good at telling trees apart, either, can't identify a single bird by its call. He's not even particularly good at naming colors.
For most people, of course, these would be minor failings, barely worth remarking. For a poet they are a serious handicap. Coming out of the station, he passes the flower shop on 72nd and Amsterdam. The rich variety of form and color, the myriad species of flowers that he cannot begin to name. It makes him miserable just looking at them.
He wonders if there's a course he can take to learn this stuff.
P.S. For those of you who may be tempted not to click the link, it turns out that Poetry is now available online - not just extracts, the whole thing - free (and right after I mailed in my check with the subscription too! Ah, well). So go, read and enjoy.