Thursday, May 10, 2012

the tulips

T U L I P S 

The tulips make me want to paint,
Something about the way they drop
Their petals on the tabletop
And do not wilt so much as faint,

Something about their burnt-out hearts,
Something about their pallid stems
Wearing decay like diadems,
Parading finishes like starts,

Something about the way they twist
As if to catch the last applause,
And drink the moment through long straws,
And how, tomorrow, they’ll be missed.

The way they’re somehow getting clearer,
The tulips make me want to see—
The tulips make the other me
(The backwards one who’s in the mirror,

The one who can’t tell left from right),
Glance now over the wrong shoulder
To watch them get a little older
And give themselves up to the light.

I think I posted this poem, or linked to it anyway, last year.  The first stanza gets me every time I read this poem.  Because tulips DO make me want to paint.  The line where she says they do not wilt so much as faint is doubly lovely because the colours also become more faint as they get 'a little older."  And, well, for some unknown reason, I love the word faint.  Feint.  Okay, and diadem, too, also a favourite word.  (Poets have favourite words like artists have favourite colours/palettes....or maybe everyone has favourite words - I hope so).  The combination of 'pallid stems' and 'diadems' - seriously great. (And I'm not always fond of rhyming in poems).  "The way they're somehow getting clearer" - it's true - they suddenly become crisp - or our eyes adjust to the waxy beauty of their hues.  "The tulips make me want to see" - oh, yes!  Don't they?  To stop and really look, to drink them in, as they drink in the last bit of life through their straw-like stems.  The last line - so simple - "And give themselves up to the light."  So lovely too, after all that's gone before.  Simple observations, mainly unadorned language, nothing wildly unique about what's said.  But written with such clarity and attention to sound, that we immediately see the vase of tulips (notice she doesn't even use the word vase....).  We are enlivened, our seeing refreshed.

Because I am married to a painter of still life,  it seems we are usually obligated to see a vase of flowers through.  You know, to watch them grow faint, and fade, and drop their petals, and splay out drunkenly, abandoning themselves, rather gloriously and rather messily.  Right now, these flowers, long past their prime are sitting on the console in the living room looking more bedraggled than you could imagine.  They're withered and wizened and flailing.  Beyond faint. But really they are beautiful in their last unselfconscious gestures.  My camera is in the shop these past few days (I ran around madly taking photos of anything before taking it in) so I can't do anything about them.  No pictures, just words, then.


  1. These pix are exquisite. I hope you aren't without your camera long!

  2. the poem got me too. ; ) so beautiful.
    the photos create such a peace within me.

  3. thanks to you both. Lucy - the camera is back. sigh of relief. : )


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