Archives of Spring

Four Seasons (Spring detail); Marc Chagall (CC BY 2.0 Chris Rycroft)

Je dis: une fleur! et, hors de l’oubli oú ma voix relègue aucun contour, en tant que quelque chose d’autre que les calices sus, musicalement se lève, idée même et suave, l’absente de tous bouquets.
[I say: a flower! And, out of the oblivion where my voice casts every contour, insofar as it is something other than the known bloom, there arises, musically, the very idea in its mellowness; in other words, what is absent from every bouquet.]
          —Stéphane Mallarmé, “Crise de Vers,” in Divagations [Tr. Barbara Johnson]


For flowers, I have cared little:
                 an obliteration,
                                  condensed grace notes
lading anthologic leaves,
                 images grand—loves, lives . . .
                                  I aloofly ignore their
semaphores of shared
                 human days, hope and
                                  renewal, sighs
of cheery spring.
                 And though flowers remain
                                  in hell
also—where their frightening incandescent
                 azure petals(’ [in]determinacy)
                                  assume(s a) dilapidated sanctity:
say, the sublime delphinium—
                 I might even thoughtlessly dismiss
                                  opuntia, that prickly pear
(or saguaro
                 on a languishing tide),
                                  as my eyes fail their conditioning,
ocularcentrism squandered
                 on beige-blank institutional
                                  walls unwittingly covered with
this, that, but never blue blossoms
                 of ipomoea nor clematis,
                                  never gentian nor brunnea,
which I perceive only in poems
                 (or on the internet),
Yet I am no Deckard
                 wandering inorganic wastes.
                                  Otsego County screams green
today and yesterday,
                 my backyard full of peaches
                                  and false goldenstar,
shoots of sugar maple and never-ending grass,
                 as if winter could be


Silver-filigreed columns
                 of May rain arrive
                                  in the Catskills’ foothills
unlike cruel Pittsburgh
                 or parched Tucson—
                                  in torrents and
yawning relief—
                 but unremarked and refreshing,
                                  a prelude or intermission
for a minor demigod
                 to assert its presence and,
                                  briefly acknowledged, depart
happy, its opalescent eyes glinting
                 behind gossamer tresses
                                  with prosaic satisfaction.
Blooming in the aqueous wake
                 are oxeye daisies and wild carrot,
                                  black cherry and garlic mustard,
but I barely register
                 their avenant sprigs,
                                  their understated variety
pulsing through earthy
                 membranes beside my tread
                                  while I pace the back porch
consoling the future.
                 They say that absent
                                  in nature’s bouquet
are my thoughts’ contours,
                 or at least, their sonic equivalence,
                                  an arisen music,
a gloomy pronunciation,
                 perhaps regarding the beauty
                                  of a day’s history, but most
certainly a familiar statement:
                 an annihilation, a replacement,
                                  allegorical barriers removed,
meaningful relations exhausted,
                 experience dynamized,
                                  an eternal moment. . . .


In my floral liberation—
                 a refulgent catalysis,
                                  decades of miniature
crashing waves—
                 referents have nevertheless
                                  stretched their striving names
across my words’ scarred garden
                 to wound its unhealable
                                  statuary: it was
a dark, serious book.
                 The insistence of
                                  early adulthood in this
horrible century
                 on everything diverging
                                  from a belief in some
                 makes me thankful
                                  for supposed usefulness
but despair that the light
                 has already entered our lives.
                                  The imagination might
need a replenishing
               bloom, a mature pause
                                  on new electric thresholds
of the inescapable real,
               a projective assembly
                                  feeling no allegiance
to previous formulations
               nor disinclination to revise.
                                  But flowers?
               Philadelphia fleabane,
                                  European lily of the valley,
and common columbine . . .
               might their negated presence
                                  stir the soil of new words?
Perhaps, though I anticipate
               walking home later, intent upon
                                  other things.