Category Archives: flowers
(Statements in italics taken from Ethics, by Baruch de Spinoza)
Look farther and farther toward thin blue sky, until the green feathery tops of the trees are like the northern pole on some dream planet. Put the anger back in its bottle. These trees are generous. Hatred can never be good.
Your carsickness from the ride up the mountain begins to fade, leaving behind a breathless, weepy echo not unlike your first religious fervor. Hatred is increased through return of hatred, but may be destroyed by love.
When have you not been afraid? The random can be scrutinized for meaning, the puzzle solved, when surveyed long & carefully enough. Anything may be accidentally the cause of either hope or fear.
These trees have plenty of time. As a child, you stared at Jesus’ sad face for hours, wishing you could marry him — wondering what it was that made him love you. Could you sacrifice yourself for the sins of the world, if it was that simple & necessary? Cathedrals turn us small and vulnerable again, for reasons both blessed & cursed. Devotion is love towards an object which astonishes us.
Vague, starry eyes like yours feel at home here; the air is weighty, burdensome & solemn. You’ve loved trees before; this is different. These trees have plenty of time – more time than you. If we love a thing which is like ourselves, we endeavor as much as possible to make it love us in return.
Your nerves are suddenly frozen, by the unaccustomed richness of perfect light. Your guide is tall & slender, hesitant to speak. Her mother has the tattooed forearm of a Polish Jew of a certain age. The knowledge of good and evil is nothing but an idea of joy or sorrow. Sorrow is [a hu]man’s passage from a greater to a less perfection.
These trees have plenty of time. She touches your wrist, and for a moment, you, too, want to grow taller, leaving the surface of the earth behind forever. Shyly, she picks up a tiny pinecone, smaller than a toy. You both laugh when she tells you this is their seed. Joy is [a hu]man’s passage from a less to a greater perfection.
These trees have plenty of time. And all around, their wise, fallen, hollow bodies litter the ground like the bones of saints. Childlike, you understand a wish to die here, never to leave this hush. They’re only trees – your neck bent back as far as it will go; only trees, yet wondering if the giants can hear your thoughts. Love is joy, with the accompanying idea of an external cause. Love and desire may be excessive. When the mind imagines its own weakness, it necessarily sorrows.
Is there anything we have less power over than our own tongues? These trees have plenty of time, growing wise as the Buddha, in their silence.
Surveyor in New England, a prose poem
And so, since there were no detailed official maps, he named small lakes after himself, solitary hills, even shy, dusty lanes marked only by the great thumping hooves of his horse — a patient, taciturn beast, dun-colored, remarkable mainly for the seven white spots on its flank, arranged like the constellation Ursa Major.
Back then, a hundred years ago, electrical-survey men like him sweated gracefully during summer, their cheeks burnt into dark Scotch grain, their hairlines preserved white as milk under the dimpled felt of U.S.-issue hats. Though he was the youngest of the crew, his moustache grew enviably broad and full, waxed close at the tips, bowed under his classical nose like the extended wings of a pigeon.
Reining to a stop, as he slid down, he pulled from the saddle-bags yet another wooden stake flagged with a length of wrinkled red muslin, kneeling to pound it into the rocky Vermont ground, leaving it there for eternity.
As he rode on farther north — past the tall flowering weeds around Lovell Pond, the drunken bees bouncing off his boots — continuing along the route he’d laid out for the electric poles to follow, he thought of his mother: the way her fierce blue eyes glittered on foggy mornings, the way his father caressed her wrist at the dinner table, and, above all, how skillfully she ironed, gripping the rag-wrapped handle, fluttering the heavy, blunt-nosed tool over the damp white cotton of his shirts in rhythms as comforting and certain and lovely as the slow tick of a butterfly’s wings as it feeds from the bright center of a blossom.
A banana tree is a metaphor for life, really… it dies after it bears fruit. It gives its life to produce the next generation. Banana leaves are so useful. Useful when they’re green, and useful when they’re brown. Generation upon generation. That really is a sacred word, generation. WE generate ideas, too. So can’t WE generate more peace, rather than more war? Can’t OUR fuel be love, not hate? Yes, just like the banana tree, sometimes destruction is necessary to create new life… recycling? Reincarnation?
One way of looking at things is to take a leap of faith – decide that when WE die, nothing will be lost; everything will be gained. WE leave behind US a legacy, all of US, shaping the reality of the UNIVERSE. The UNIVERSE is alive through US! The UNIVERSE writes songs and stories and mathematics and music through US! WE are engines! WE are alive! WE are organic! WE, human beings, are evolving right this second! LIFE doesn’t stand still! LIFE adapts, or ceases! LIFE IS EVOLUTION. Trying to cling too desperately to the past is to entomb the SELF in stone, alone, buried alive, dying. WE’RE alive until WE’RE dead.
Value this opportunity. Don’t throw it away. Take care of OUR home, planet Earth. Take care of OUR fellow travelers. Send not a sword, but an olive branch to OUR enemies as well as OUR friends. OUR bitterest enemy may turn out to be OUR best companion. Only time will tell. WE live within moments, WE exist within history, and WE are passionate within the spirit. Train that energy! Use passion to create, not to destroy! Destructive passion, combined with weapons of all kinds, might kill US all. Respond to life with logic AND emotion. Let US use OUR brains and OUR gut. Instead of the falling abyss of dread, the rising flutter of joy… and at the end of life, may WE all have truly, truly, truly found PEACE.
Cue Judy Garland, “Somewhere Over The Rainbow.”
Crocuses, a poem
I. Signs of Spring
Suddenly, there they were by the front door,
and at my son’s preschool — purple and yellow
and green, poking through the snow
like small erections, out of the body of the earth,
the earth’s slumbering winter body.
My husband was always at work then,
they, the flowers, were my best companions.
“God is!” they said. “We’re God’s greatest effort,” they said,
“We’re God’s peeping blooms, despair must go to sleep,
and all creatures must go out of their lairs to frolic.”
My husband did not feel the urge.
II. The Mole
Such loneliness I had battled all winter!
I made chicken, hot crescent rolls,
and buttered beans to make us happy,
but my husband was never hungry.
Lots of things took his appetite clean away.
I hadn’t scrubbed the toilet in two weeks,
this distressed him, he was a stern master.
The crocuses were so calm and forgiving,
purple and yellow like bruises;
my husband inflicted bruises without knowing.
He could not see, or did not want to.
His face lit up upon our child, that was all.
He was too important to sweep, or dust, or scrub.
I was the babysitter. I was happy with the crocuses,
and then one day, a dead mole; my son didn’t know
what dead meant, so I had to explain it.
He petted the soft fur, wanted to snuggle it
to his cheek. We paid homage to the mole.
We buried it under the snow, amid the crocuses.
III. Troubling Questions
My husband didn’t know the bruises he left behind;
the flowers were my trusted companions.
His face lit up, gazing upon his son,
his finest possession; my husband would jerk him
away from me, hate in his eyes, when the crying boy
awoke in the night. The crocuses poked their heads out,
asking questions I couldn’t answer. My husband
didn’t want to see the bruises, or he was colorblind.
He was too important to notice the marks.
The crocuses asked, “Where is pleasure?”
“Not here,” I said. “Maybe next door?”
IV. The Body’s Lament
The earth’s body was waking up,
but mine wasn’t, my husband was too important
to worry about my body. The head of his penis
was purple like the crocuses, but it asked no questions.
His body was warm, but not for me:
for the pure idea of sex, the attractive notion.
He wanted a thinner, more charming woman
with a better degree, one who would clean the house
more often, and with a smile.
Oh, he wanted a warm, dark place to set
himself, but one with no conversation.
As I put away the winter wools, the smell of mothballs,
white, crystalline like snow, inflamed my fears.
When the rest of spring arrived,
the warm air did not ease the tightness,
the block of ice around my heart.