after William Carlos Williams’s “Queen-Anne’s-Lace”

Remote purple lays claim to stem,
beside routine stripes of green and brown.
Dark as a patch of shade
in the marsh across the path
that the neighborhood kids and I,
were forbidden to pass. It is
that hue that overtakes, 
the marsh that sucks in boots
and offers up skunk cabbage and cattails.
Nests here and overhead.  Who named this plant—
also called bog onion, brown dragon, Indian turnip, wake robin,
Arisaema triphyllum—
and who told me I cannot name. But
his purple—all shadow, all remote and not-remote,
all question marks,
craving. Yes?
This herbaceous perennial, growing from corm
vertical and swollen as it is underground.
Even in late summer, it is not nothing, William
(or Jack),
turning from purple to red before his scattering.


Copyright © 2016 by Kimiko Hahn. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 28, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“William Carlos Williams’s ‘Queen-Anne’s-Lace,’ has long been a favorite poem—for his heady blurring of this ordinary flower and a woman’s body: ‘with a purple mole / at the center of each flower’; also for his blurring the character of the plant with his poetics: ‘taking / the field by force.’ Since I was an undergraduate I have wanted to engage with Williams and so I have tried in this homage.”
—Kimiko Hahn