TO A TULIP

Standard

You,
yellow flower
standing in a cobalt vase,
unfurling blades,
stemmed sacramental cup–
winter was hard
but now your simple grace
is green announcement:
things are looking up.
There by the window you
to sunlight are the antiphon,
beauty new as beauties past,
spring’s insistence
life should carry on.
Yet you become
most beautiful at last,
when age and death are
what you must fulfill:
come that night
you can no longer
close against the dark,
you open wide until
you are all heart,
and every petal knows
translucence as it falls.
You could be hinting
how to do it, for us all.

Last Hurrah

“LAST HURRAH”        ©Sheila Creighton, 2014

Photo courtesy of Sheila Creighton  Imageryoflight@wordpress.com

46 responses »

  1. You have done it again Cynthia! This is wonderful and one of my favourites of yours. I have read it a few times and I am taken a litle further each time, into the meaning that I see in it. Its just beautiful, a keeper as people say, and I will definitely be keeping this one.

  2. Oh my! Stunning! I am speechless with wonder – as Journeyinpoetry says “you have done it again” and I share her sentiment this one is a KEEPER. (actually it needs to be published and shared)
    Cheerio,
    Jane

    • Thank you, Jane. I am still thinking about your amaryllises…(yes that is the plural)…. Do you have a poem about them? To your point about sharing and publication….I do regard this blog as publication as well as sharing, and certainly cherish all who read and–especially–comment!

  3. Very fine because of the running analogy and what the reader may discover in herself about herself, would that our translucence in old age ( not sure I am that translucent but maybe some age more translucent ly!) let through, what? Sunlight? Do we search for an analogue for sunlight, to keep the poem on track? But the poem may not yield that answer, so we supply it from our own beliefs. I’d like the more opening without the words sacramental and green, the first because I don’t know what it means in the world of the poem, the second ( green) because the inversion is self-conscious and “literary” sounding. But yes, much food for thought here! And you know how yo build a poem toward a climax!

    • I’m grateful for your kind attention to this poem, Tom, and your interesting viewpoint. How shall I explain “green” and “sacramental” so you don’t toss them out? As the maker of this poem, I don’t know the answer to that, but here are a few thoughts: visually, that tulip is a cup on a stem. It reminds me of a wine goblet, better still, a chalice, as that which is sacramentally raised in consecration, and we are made to look up. Only one of possible explanations, to be sure. Why you think “green” is an inversion, self-conscious and literary, is a puzzlement to me. I think it’s an adjective, a color cliché for Spring. Tulips “announce” spring. Can it be as simple as this: I like describing an abstract noun with a visible color? Of course you are right when you say a reader takes his own beliefs into and out of a poem, as does the writer. And I think the variety of gleanings is an enrichment for all who read here. Thank you for your contribution to the conversation, and the nice things you’ve said about this poem!

  4. Yes, this is a lovely poem! There’s beauty in the visual scene, in the comforting analogy it provides, and in the sound of the words (the rhythms, the rhymes). What I also like is that you don’t cheat Cynthia: you report what you can really see and describe what we might genuinely feel, without sentimentality or exaggeration. There’s restraint as well as emotion. It’s all delicately done!
    Tom D’Evelyn raises an interesting little question about the choice of two words. I think that’s complimentary because your poem is so fine it invites the most detailed consideration. I think I see what he means but without feeling the same way, and you are the writer.
    Such a beautiful poem and certainly one I’ll keep rereading.

    • What you say here is most gratifying and instructive, John. Your remark about not cheating especially pleases me. I seem to recall your pointing out, about one of the poems on your blog, which appears as free verse, that it was a sonnet in disguise. This tulip poem was also a sonnet in its infancy, a strict Shakespearean. It gained its freedom in later stages of the work…but I liked working that way, from one kind of form to another; the rhyme and iambs remain, but more subtly, I guess. Thank you for your appreciation, and your insight, as always.

          • Thank you so much–my plans are always low-key in my little solo life (though Big, in my imagination!), but I’m thinking of making a crustless pumpkin pie…shall I eat a few bites for you?

            • The solo life does have it’s interesting aspects does it not? I have always loved to cook and bake, but for some reason haven’t done much in recent years….( The reason likely is the solo life! Cooking for one and eating alone are highly uninteresting activities). A crustless
              pumpkin pie? But how can you be sure , quite, what constitutes a single wedge? Lovely! You could eat half a pie before you know it! Yes, do have a few bites for me!

  5. glorious – I have tulips on my desk now that are currently in the final stages of fading – and I can’t help thinking they’re just as lovely with the dried and curling edges 🙂 what a fitting piece to read this morning!

  6. Do you keep an eye on Sheila Creighten’s photography blog? She’s posted a picture of tulip leaves. Very different sort of beauty from your poem, but what it has in common is a quality of precise observation.
    Imageryoflight.wordpress.com

  7. A magnificent tribute to the beauty of my favorite flower, the tulip. Yet , the poem has a poignant feel to it, especially when it describes the ” translucency” of it all, the falling away after the full bloom . Eileen

    • Hi Eileen…I hope you have some tulips for Easter…and I know you would prefer not to think sad thoughts as of a fading flower….but try not throwing out your tulips as soon as they look sort of passé…they’re really interesting to watch! Happy Easter!

  8. That’s so lovely Cynthia – so inspiring!♥ I really believe some elements of flowers can teach us a great deal. And to think we have so much more freedom than they have, and yet we can feel so easily trapped in our human life. Makes me wonder if in some cases our inability is down to our thinking a lot more than our circumstances. But it’s difficult to convince the mind that might be true! 🙂

    • Hello Suzy! To pick up on what you’ve said, I have become convinced that whatever our circumstances, it’s our own thinking about them that creates how we feel…but changing our thinking is a whole other story! I’ve enjoyed, in browsing your blog, the gorgeous time lapse videos of flowers…..they really do almost become persons! Thank you for your visit and nice comment!

  9. Cynthia, I like this poem for how it transitions from insistence that life should carry on to death and a contemplation of how we all should die so well. What a beautiful image, that of the sacramental cup and antiphon. And that line, “come that night you can no longer close against the dark, you open wide until you are all heart…” brings me to tears, and the translucence at the end, for me, is also a hint of transparency…what is to come, perhaps, in death fulfilled. Beautiful poem, indeed!

    • I find your comment very rewarding, Anna. We both know that one cannot paraphrase a poem (nor do we want to!) but this reading of yours comes close. I deleted the copy of it which you said you erroneously made, but in a way, I’m glad that happened: it made me re-read the poem and recall the tears….Thank you very much!

  10. I’m finally able to read some poems after my trip to Washington DC. Ugh! The trip, not the poems. From my standpoint this poem is about life and the sacrament of life. It affects me deeply because of Ethel’s and my son Kevin who died of cancer. He was a wonderful person to his father and mother, of course, but the way he died, worrying about how the nurses and doctors treating him were doing even as his pain ratcheted and ratcheted up, gave his life a sacramental quality that few humans, at least in my experience, achieve.
    In this case, the tulip, is a metaphor for life and the rebirth of life in Spring. Tulips are a cup with the propagating necessities of continuing life through generations included in the sacrament of the cup. The antiphon, the music of liturgy, sung before, as an introduction to the sacred, where the flower is, in essence, the song of the sun, extends the meaning of the metaphor so that it stands for all life.
    This extension is the key to the poem as I read it. As the cup, or chalice, of spring, where the transmutation of sunlight into life and the continuation of generations of life occurs, the poem becomes both an antiphon in its own right, separate from the extension of the metaphor, celebrating the sacredness and ultimate beauty of life as seen in the tulip. This antiphon prepares us for the solemnity of the ending lines of the poem:
    “Yet you become
    most beautiful at last,
    when age and death are
    what you must fulfill:
    come that night
    you can no longer
    close against the dark,
    you open wide until
    you are all heart,
    and every petal knows
    translucence as it falls.”
    As with my son, the translucence, all heart, of life as it is inevitably unable to no longer close against the dark and the metaphor of dark inherent in this phrase, becomes more intensely beautiful than even at the moment where sun and light is transmuted, as the spiritual transmutation of blood into wine inside the sacred moment of sacrament, into the tulip, spring, and the continuation of life through generations.
    Then you take us one step further, using the tulip metaphor and the story of its beauty and death, into our persons as readers. Addressing the tulip, as you did to open the poem, you inform the tulip:
    You could be hinting
    how to do it, for us all.
    The “it” in this case is the act of facing death with beauty–as our son did.
    In many ways, as I read your poems, Cynthia, I am finding you are basically a religious poet. Not in the sense that Gerald Manley Hopkins or Richard Crashaw were religious poets, exploring the meaning of their faith through poetry, attempting to attract people to the truths they believed in the process, but more in the sense that you draw on deeply religious imagery to explore the meanings of life, and, in this case, death, illuminating your reactions to the world through a deep knowledge of religious symbols drawn mostly from Christian traditions.

    • Thomas, my heart goes out to you and your wife, Ethel, as I learn of your great loss. I have known others who had to face the death of a child–in one case, a middle-aged son– and it does seem such a cruel reversal of the natural order of things. I hope you and Ethel have been able to find some peace of mind and heart.
      In this tulip poem I do indeed attempt to do some of the things you say you find here. Your usual deep and careful reading is much appreciated—by me, and, I suspect, by others who read comments. Am I a religious poet? Maybe. Ultimate questions certainly drive my work, as does love of fellow humans, life itself, and language. As age creeps up, it all becomes ever more precious. Thank you for your kind and intelligent commentary!

  11. Pingback: Tulip Beauty 1 | Imagery of Light

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s