Some—the ones with fish names—grow so north they last a month, six weeks at most. Some others, named for the fields they look like, last longer, smaller. And these, in particular, whether trout or corn lily, onion or bellwort, just cut this morning and standing open in tapwater in the kitchen, will close with the sun. It is June, wildflowers on the table. They are fresh an hour ago, like sliced lemons, with the whole day ahead of them. They could be common mayflower lilies of the valley, day lilies, or the clustering Canada, large, gold, long-stemmed as pasture roses, belled out over the vase-- or maybe Solomon's seal, the petals ranged in small toy pairs or starry, tipped at the head like weeds. They could be anonymous as weeds. They are, in fact, the several names of the same thing, lilies of the field, butter-and-eggs, toadflax almost, the way the whites and yellows juxtapose, and have "the look of flowers that are looked at," rooted as they are in water, glass, and air. I remember the summer I picked everything, flower and wildflower, singled them out in jars with a name attached. And when they had dried as stubborn as paper I put them on pages and named them again. They were all lilies, even the hyacinth, even the great pale flower in the hand of the dead. I picked it, kept it in the book for years before I knew who she was, her face lily-white, kissed and dry and cold.
From Summer Celestial by Stanley Plumly. Copyright © 1983 by Stanley Plumly. Reprinted by permission of The Ecco Press.
It's like living in a light bulb, with the leaves
Like filaments and the sky a shell of thin, transparent glass
Enclosing the late heaven of a summer day, a canopy
Of incandescent blue above the dappled sunlight golden on the grass.
I took the train back from Poughkeepsie to New York
And in the Port Authority, there at the Suburban Transit window,
She asked, "Is this the bus to Princeton?"—which it was.
"Do you know Geoffrey Love?" I said I did. She had the blondest hair,
Which fell across her shoulders, and a dress of almost phosphorescent blue.
She liked Ayn Rand. We went down to the Village for a drink,
Where I contrived to miss the last bus to New Jersey, and at 3 a.m. we
Walked around and found a cheap hotel I hadn't enough money for
And fooled around on its dilapidated couch. An early morning bus
(She'd come to see her brother), dinner plans and missed connections
And a message on his door about the Jersey shore. Next day
A summer dormitory room, my roommates gone: "Are you," she asked,
"A hedonist?" I guessed so. Then she had to catch her plane.
Sally—Sally Roche. She called that night from Florida,
And then I never heard from her again. I wonder where she is now,
Who she is now. That was thirty-seven years ago.
And I'm too old to be surprised again. The days are open,
Life conceals no depths, no mysteries, the sky is everywhere,
The leaves are all ablaze with light, the blond light
Of a summer afternoon that made me think again of Sally's hair.
Copyright © 2006 John Koethe.
Desert flower, flowers from the garland of our houses where families bicker in the open air, you browse on the stones of the day, simple, while field and sky like sky and sea appear all around. Rustic desert flower, no evening streaming with lights. No shepherds drenched by dew, slender fire of the hedges. No marsh-marigold, bilberry, swamp-violet or Florentine iris, or gentian, no angelica, no Parnassian grass or marsh-myrtle. You’re Pieruti, Zuan and tall Bepi with his walking-sticks of bone, slim at the helm of his wagon, pasture flower. You become hay. Burn, burn, sun of my town, little desert flower. The years pass over you, and so do I, with the shadow of the acacia tree, with the sunflower, on this quiet day.
From In Danger: A Pasolini Anthology by Pier Paolo Pasolini, edited by Jack Hirschman. Copyright © 1941 by Pier Paolo Pasolini. Used by permission of City Lights Publishers.
Rose, harsh rose,
marred and with stint of petals,
meagre flower, thin,
sparse of leaf,
than a wet rose
single on a stem—
you are caught in the drift.
Stunted, with small leaf,
you are flung on the sand,
you are lifted
in the crisp sand
that drives in the wind.
Can the spice-rose
drip such acrid fragrance
hardened in a leaf?
This poem is in the public domain.