Friday, February 03, 2012

Poetry Friday: Flowers

February seems a good time to think about flowers. Where I live, they grow all the time, but in the north you can now only find them at the florist's. Browning, missing England from India, wrote about delicate, polite buttercups, calling them "Far brighter than this gaudy melon-flower!" But I kind of have a thing for gaudy, at least when it comes to flowers.

Here's part of Mona Van Duyn's poem "A Bouquet of Zinnias."

A "high prole" flower, says Fussell's book on American
class, the aristocrat wouldn't touch them, says Cooper
on class in England. So unguardedly, unthriftily,
do they open up and show themselves that subtlety,
rarity, nuance, are almost put to shame.


In any careless combination they delight.
Pure peach-cheek beside the red of a boiled beet
by the perky scarlet of a cardinal by flamingo pink
by sunsink orange by yellow from a hundred buttercups
by bleached linen white. Any random armful
of the world, one comes to feel, would fit together.

You can read the whole poem here. It has lots more about how great zinnias are, how "tough" and "stubborn" they are, and about the poet's grandmother, who had "big, clumsy-looking hands."

I wrote a poem myself about daffodils and their lack of subtlety. Here it is:


The daffodils take a risk each year
As they burst out in all their gaudy glory.
It would make much more sense
To wait underground a little longer.
After all, it's probably going to snow again.
And even if it doesn't
They aren't going to be around more than a few weeks.

Still, the daffodils don't seem to mind.
They are yellow but fearless.
They don't try to tone themselves down,
To dress in brown or some more practical color,
To camouflage their joy just in case,
To kill time until they are sure the weather will be favorable.
Instead, they are simply beautiful while they can be.

If daffodils think of the future at all
It's a long-term one,
The resurrection of next spring
When the dead bulbs,
Rooted and established in the earth,
Will come to life again
And again, freely,
Careless of their own safety or dignity,
They will give themselves away.

by Ruth, from

Here's to unsubtle, "high prole" flowers. I love them all. I love how bright and happy they are, the splashes of color they provide. I love the way they can get away with wild combinations that I'd never dare to wear. They inspire me to be who I am, without worrying so much about what people think.

And speaking of flowers, today's Poetry Friday roundup is at The Iris Chronicles.

Photo credit: Matsu


Robyn Hood Black said...

Thank you, Ruth, for this burst of colorful poetry! Your daffodils are lovely. I smiled at the zinnias, as I grew them from seed last year - so colorful and unruly. Love the last line of that poem: "Any random armful of the world, one comes to feel, would fit together."

Janet said...

I love your poem. I'm trying not to be jealous about you having flowers year-round. Surely it's a character-refining gift to live with grayness for months upon months where I live...

jama said...

Thanks for the lovely poetry bouquet, Ruth! It was nice to think of gaudy, unsubtle floral colors on this winter's day. :)

Jessica Stock said...

I love your daffodil poem Ruth! What a refreshing reminder to be yourself.

Katya said...

What a lovely burst of color!
We are still mired in winter here for a couple of more months but the seed catalogs are arriving so your flower poems are very timely -- I'm picking out the flowers I'll be planting this spring.

Tara @ A Teaching Life said...

These poems make me yearn for springtime and flowers!

Julie said...

For me it's all about peonies - so gaudy and extravagant, and so heavy they have to be held up! Lovely post, Ruth. I'm in the mood for flowers, too.

Linda B said...

a wonderful gift today because we are in the midst of a snowstorm & my potting bench is piled, with snow! I love your daffodil poem, so rich with color as they are, & the one about zinnias makes me miss my mother as they were her favorite flower. What wonderful color words it holds. Thank you!

Irene Latham said...

Thank you for your thoughts on daffodils. I have always thought them eager and impatient to see the world. I can relate! :)

Polly said...

We've got a houseful of daffodils at the moment as at this time of year the Supermarkets sell good sized bunches for £1.00. Can't wait to see the garden ones opening up soon...

GatheringBooks said...

I just realized that Valentine's is only a few days away - this collection of poems seems very apt for the 'season of love' - the photos complement the poetry beautifully.

Irene said...

Thanks for sharing this, Ruth. I just love "Daffodils." They're starting to come up already in Virginia.

Tricia said...

Your daffodil poem made me smile. Yellow but fearless - wonderful!

The crocus here in my town have been fooled this year by our regular-but-unseasonal thaws and have started to erupt from the ground. I wonder what's going to happen to them if the weather does go back to the usual freezing - i hope they still manage to bloom!

Monique said...

Yes thank you for this post, and the lovely photos! Peach-cheeks and perky scarlets and sunsink oranges -- how I love to imagine them now, in the middle of a mostly gray northern winter.