writing about flowers

It has been months since I posted here, for reasons far too numerous to mention. In any case,  today’s Poem-a-Day from Academy of American Poets spoke to me so deeply that I decided to break my silence by sharing it here.

This question of writing about flowers is in fact very near and dear to my heart. The need arises in all of us who live close to the earth, to the heart, to what pulses through and connects all of life. As a poet, I love the idea of writing a bouquet of poems arising from a common seed. I also love the sublte metaphor and its shift through the poem. It draws me into multiple layers of meaning. [Clearly, my weeklong poetry workshop wtih Marge Piercy is still with me!] And, of course, I love how a simple experience can evoke such a powerful poetic response.

How Can Black People Write About Flowers at a Time Like This,
by Hanif Abruddaqub

dear reader, with our heels digging into the good
mud at a swamp’s edge, you might tell me something
about the dandelion & how it is not a flower itself
but a plant made up of several small flowers at its crown
& lord knows I have been called by what I look like
more than I have been called by what I actually am &
I wish to return the favor for the purpose of this
exercise, which, too, is an attempt at fashioning
something pretty out of seeds refusing to make anytning
worthwhile of their burial. size me up & skip whatever semantics
arrive to the tongue first, say: that boy he look like a hollowed-out grandfather
clock, he look like a million-dollar god with a two-cent
heaven. like all it takes is one kiss & before morning,
you could scatter his whole mind across a field.

The poet writes of this poem:

I was at a reading shortly after the election, and the poet (who was black) was reading gorgeous poems, which had some consistent and exciting flower imagery. A woman (who was white) behind me—who thought she was whispering to her neighbor—said ‘How can black people write about flowers at a time like this?’ I thought it was so absurd in a way that didn’t make me angry but made me curious. What is the black poet to be writing about ‘at a time like this’ if not to dissect the attractiveness of a flower—that which can arrive beautiful and then slowly die right before our eyes? I thought flowers were the exact thing to write about at a time like this, so I began this series of poems, all with the same title. I thought it was much better to grasp a handful of different flowers, put them in a glass box, and see how many angles I could find in our shared eventual demise.

Does it speak to you in some way?

 

heart suspended

Aside

Touch drawing image

courtesy Deborah Koff-Chapin

I peer into the depths to see myself
slowly waken, pulse slowed by cold
as my hands hold my heart suspended

for the moments of winter to pass into warmth
and light, to bring me fully out of the womb-cave of darkness, reflecting

back to me the lessons learned
from winter visions that long to merge
with the light springing into life

swb

balancing need

Credit: magnitudemedia

Credit: magnitudemedia

Surrounded by abundance sometimes
I forget to balance my own needs
with all the others that move in
and around my just-full-enough life

wrapping their tendrils around fragile
lessons learned through lean and bend
or occasional SNAP! of the too-long held
whose growing time is passed, yet clings

as if tenacity might bring renewed growth
to the vine yet instead, crowds out
young energy sprawling itself greenly
into tomorrow. Today it’s balance I want

to re-member as I mold my pieces together —
old, new, not-yet-become or even imagined . . .
How one plucked blossom emerges again
and again into ongoing abundance, season

upon season! Love is like that. Balance, too.
The more we practice, the easier it becomes.
The more we have, the more there is.
The more we give, the more we get.

I strive to recall the simplicity of this knowing
that balance is a practice like writing, love –
not a cancellation of one extreme
for the other. No erasure, just active paradox

reaching a shared sense of purpose,
achieved with intention and focus
looping and turning to create a whole
of otherwise disparate parts.

With time.
With practice.
With patience.
Balance.

swb
2-25-13