Today's poem is by Cynthia Huntington

Cut Flowers

Though the cut flowers wilt
and the leaves wither, blanching
in the vase for days, still
they remind me of fields, the loveliness
of fading part by part, so many
changes, not sudden the cutting
down, not brutal but a way of
undoing. A fulfillment.
Merciful, you could say,
the cutting down and then
the slow undoing, which returns
forms to their beginning
as they go, petal by petal, and leaf
curling, how one shrivels
and falls. A blossom
that folds in on itself, remembering
the bud. Complete in its beginning.
As we say the flower is perfect,
and I feel my soul in danger
if I believe this because I am
a flower, no, a field of imperfections
and I may yet be cut down.
Be mercifully undone.
I'm sitting by the window and it is night;
I smell the cut grass, and gasoline
burning in cars that pass, and an insinuation
of skunk—these frighten me
because I cannot join them; they are not
sorrow or undoing, they are life fulfilling itself,
and I cannot settle my mind
from this ungainly sadness.
The window is open;
the flowers lean away from it, wilting.
A wish that I might be, not spared,
but taken back into this
night garden, made part of
something. This "I" a blossom
that opens and falls,
taken into a smell of cut grass,
whatever comes to me, for me,
across night, flown to this
single window, lit
from within by lamplight.

A faintest fragrance of fields
persists in these flowers, still lovely,
wilting without sorrow, without knowing loss.
And yet grief lives in the corners
and under our hair and nails, private
and untended against the world's machine.
It prevails, this grief,
wrapped in moderation, and making small
gestures toward what breaks
the heart. But everything breaks the heart!
It is here to break, only invented to be
the fist of blood that bursts in the fire.
Why I love the wilting
flowers and the greens rotting
in the yellowing water, not gently,
not gently at all, but like some dead animal
held in the hand. It is not
merciful, I was wrong
to say "merciful," that was wish only.
I have come to a place
here at the kitchen table where nothing
consoles me but these flowers
detonating silently by the window.

Somewhere a meadow strewn
with flowers untidy as stars, shimmers
in light. A meadow uncut, never turned.
I think I am talking about fear
and I know fear is only ignorance
of our true nature, mistaking
the loss of ourselves for an end
of being. The flowers stand up in the air
beside the window. They were not slain,
they were not rolled in heaps
into ditches to lie upon one another;
they stand up in the air beside the window,
translated, waning
as life wanes, in normal use, not in terror.
I am sitting by the window.
I am looking at the flowers.
The night air is cool and I breathe it
into every cell. Molecules of
darkness become me.

Copyright © 2012 Cynthia Huntington All rights reserved
from Heavenly Bodies
Southern Illinois University Press
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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