Thursday, May 27, 2010


Twelve Poems with Flowers

"End of May"

Atop each stem
an iris or two has turned in
on itself with no regrets and given up
color. Pink, yellow, and red,
the rosepetals are spread
so wide they already tend
toward total drop.
Peony litter covers the ground.
On earlier days
friends and neighbors in pairs have been summoned
to have a drink and see the bloom,
have admired everything and gone.

I sit in my suntan oil alone --
almost alone -- a jay
\tries to flap me away
from his drinking trough.
His coarse, demanding rebukes
pierce my ears. He chirks
news of impending drought.

But under my feet as I tan
is no longer a brick patio,
rather a light brown
paisley made of seed wings
from the silver maple, which can sow
faster than I can sew
this fine fabric into something.
And in the air,
like a great snow,
are flakes alive with purpose.
The cottonwood huffs and puffs
them everywhere.

On oil that sheathes me from the sun
they cling to bare parts of person.
All the long, late
my arms and legs are furred
with such a will to beget
I think I can almost afford
to forget it's only skin-deep.
It's like taking dope.

It's too late, I tell the tree,
you've settled on somebody seedless.
Equivocally, it nods its head.
But I have been overheard.
Maybe for you but not for me,
the seedy old world says.

-- Mona Van Duyn

* * *


I wished to describe
in South Park

five white swans
standing on a clouded mirror
of water

I wished to paint
black chrysanthemums
oxidized by hoar-frost

light on the lips
of a passing

I recalled the poets
of The Middle Kingdom
they had mastered the skill
of composing the perfect work
they are extinguished
but the light of their poems
reaches me
across thousands of years

a leaf touched the ground

I now understood
weeping pictures
the silence of music
the mystery of crippled poetry

When I got home
my hand began writing
a deaf-and-dumb
it wished to be
to see the light
but I have no wish to write it
I hear how it slowly
stops breathing

November 1982

-- Tadeusz Rozewicz
translated from the Polish by Adam Czerniawski

* * *

"Radical Grace"

I see a man bathe through a hotel window.
He has long hair. One bright geranium is placed in a jar.
Standing by the garden he picked it in
I can almost see long legs through autumn night and steam.
Vital grace essential; there must be slow jazz playing
on an old radio, the glass he lifts a ruby venous bell.
The city is Vancouver, night tired just before rain.

He turns to watch me, ambivalence and grace.
This is still the first rule. The world reinvents itself.
All pulse, continuous hesitation into what is lovely;
re-invention. Hands urge to dry his sopping hair
now I can't name him man or woman.

-- Tanya Kern

* * *

"Yellow Iris"

It's early morning
and a woman
from a previous
world is wading
up the stream.

Very stately and
sturdy with double-
jointed elbows she's
still in her
grave clothes,
her crinkled three-ply
surcoat made of
cloth of June.

She has one
gold-webbed glove,
one withered hand.

She's resting, considering
her next pose,
behind the blades
of slatted blinds.

Her name is
Iris, the Rainbow,
the messenger, the
water's secretary, the
only word she
speaks is 'yellow'.

Lost ghost Queen
of the Unbetween
it's lovely listening
to the burp
of mud as
she sinks her
feet right in.

-- Alice Oswald

* * *

"August 1952"

It's still distant, but there are hints of springtime:
some flowers, aching to bloom, have torn open their collars.

In this era of autumn, almost winter, leaves can still be heard:
their dry orchestras play, hidden in corners of the garden.

Night is still where it was, but colors at times take flight,
leaving red feathers of dawn on the sky.

Don't regret our breath's use as air, our blood's as oil --
some lamps at last are burning in the night.

Tilt your cup, don't hesitate! Having given up all,
we don't need wine. we've freed ourselves, made Time irrelevant.

When imprisoned man opens his eyes, cages will dissolve: air, fire,
water, earth -- all have pledged such dawns, such gardens to him.

Your feet bleed, Faiz, something surely will bloom
as you water the desert simply by walking through it.

-- Faiz Ahmed Faiz
translated from the Urdu by Agha Shahid Ali

* * *

"Gray Light in May"

The soft gray light between rains
This enveloping light
Under a canopy of green
Oak chestnut maple
Last night the moon, orange and full
Over Manhattan's West side
Edgewater below so sleepy
The neighborhood asleep
My family asleep
Coming back here how many years now
And the ride in from Newark
Manhattan looming over the meadows
The beauties of travel are due to
The strange hours we keep to see them
This soft windless air
Away now nearly thirty years
You can smell the tidal flats below
Passenger jets silent overhead
In and out of Kennedy, LaGuardia
As if gliding across the night
My heart abrim
A glass of wind, spilling over
The air like wine
I am a stranger to myself

The soft gray light
The still moist air
The azaleas in these yards
Under the canopies of leaves
Fiercely abloom in this gray light
Between rains
Almost stereoscopic
The broad green leaves overhead as well
Painters know it, photographers too
The smell of lilac
Nudging my chest like the muzzle of a dog
The manner in which this gray light
Wraps itself around things
Saturating them
Bringing up their color
So much a part of me
So much of what is dearest
I can barely stand upright under the weight of it
The song of the wood thrush
Reverberates through the heavy air
And around its hidden columns
Who knows the Palisades as I do
Lilac and dogwood
Flowering pear blossoms, mingling
Drifting into gutters
How many years
For how many years
A stranger to my own heart

-- August Kleinzahler

* * *

"The Arrival Matters"

Down this white-hot avenue
In a grayish-silver haze,
I am driving under blue
And brilliant centuries of days;

And a south wind blows and blows,
Tosses the crepe-myrtle trees
White and mauve and pink and rose,
Blows the pollen and the bees;

Where the paving-lines converge
In their clot of blazing mist,
Where the sky and city merge,
Is the point where I exist.

-- Frederick Turner

* * *


red was always a fickle color
but who cared when the mad woman
screamed off her head

or your mother didn't speak to you
and the words you needed
ran off and left you stranded

red could be capricious all she wants
that doesn't alter the beauty of hibiscus
or make them any less useful for
shining shoes

dangerous or bold
as women sitting legs spread
using their skirts to fan the heat
between their thighs
or peppered shrimp
soliciting water from your eyes

red is that mean sometimes

-- Opal Palmer Adisa

* * *

"With Quevedo, In Springtime"

Everything has flowered in
these fields, apple trees,
hesitant blues, yellow weeds,
and in green grass the poppies thrive.
The inextinguishable sky, the new air
of each day, the invisible shine within,
that gift of a wide and vast springtime.
But spring hasn't come to my room.
diseases, dubious kisses,
that stuck like the church's ivy
to the black windows of my life,
and love alone is never enough, not even the wild
and expansive fragrance of spring.

And, to you, what can these mean now:
the orgiastic light, the evidence unfolding
like a flower, the green song
in the green leaves, the presence
of the sky with its goblet of freshness?
External spring, do not torment me,
unleashing wine and snow in my arms,
corolla and battered bouquet of sorrow,
just for today give me the sleep of nocturnal
leaves, the night of the dead, the metals, the roots,
and so many extinguished springtimes
that awaken to life every spring.

-- Pablo Neruda
translated from the Spanish by William O'Daly

* * *

"Freshen the Flowers, She Said"

So I put them in the sink, for the cool porcelain
was tender,
and took out the tattered and cut each stem
on a slant,
trimmed the black and raggy leaves, and set them all --
roses, delphiniums, daisies, iris, lilies,
and more whose names I don't know, in bright new water --
gave them

a bounce upward at the end to let them take
their own choice of position, the wheels, the spurs,
the little sheds of the buds. It took, to do this,
perhaps fifteen minutes.
Fifteen minutes of music
with nothing playing.

-- Mary Oliver

* * *

"At Stinson Beach"

Trompe l'oeil stillness in a steady rain

The coast road: morning glories in a drainage ditch
Pale touch-me-nots: suicide in early spring,
Its particular agony, the false note

By what name, when blossom
Falls on blossom, rain
On rain

What she brought back from that minute tranquillity
She never said

How the flower of her body
Danced her dresses into light

Fog and the early sun, an easy wind
She danced swaying in the stalled light
She danced easily without occasion

Variations in green, ferns, redwood,the rain

-- Robert Hass

* * *

"How to Walk in the Dark with Flowers"

Open your eyes to the light
in the armful of lilies you are holding

Move forward and be guided
by the sheen of their white curves
quavering stamens of dizzy gold
shimmering back at you as you

take the first step
A torch of flower-light
does not allow itself
to feel
cut from the earth
Just think: to be beautiful
and dying at the same, last time

Lay the lilies down on the body
Leve them, and say goodbye

Now, groping along
on hands and knees
the help you need
you generate yourself
as you wait for lucidity
to descend
with its burden
of resolve

which you'll readily embrace, arms eager
glad to push upright again
dark clay at a good distance
wind from the sky heaping around you
living aromas
from beings of light someone planted
many years ago

-- David Zieroth

* * *
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