Saturday, May 17, 2008

Somewhere Between Lilacs and Honeysuckle

Walking uphill past my neighbor's house, somewhere between the white lilacs and the honeysuckle, I noticed a single iris blooming, leaning toward the road as if to greet me. This reminded me of another iris, probably a sister to this one, that my neighbor brought me years ago. Throughout the blooming season, she delivers me surprises of flowers from her yard: magenta azaleas, daffodils, peonies like pale pink tutus. They arrive in an odd assortment of containers, charming in their combinations: tomato cans, vitamin jars, apple juice and water bottles. I stumble upon an unexpected gift of color and perfume, which is followed by the meditative pleasure of arranging the flowers in ceramic and glass vases collected over the years.

That original iris really captivated me. Flowers reveal incredible details when met face to face. I remember observing the iris' beauty and demise over the following days. This fascination resulted in a poem:

Lavender Cathedral

The iris builds its lavender cathedral,
curving three vaulted petals
over a trinity of fringed ones
that leap skyward
through translucent arches.

Three lowest petals
lower long, furred tongues;
carpets of yellow hairs unroll
down the center of each one.

Slowly, flowers fold and curl and darken,
exuding a grapey sweetness as they shrink.
When I touch them,
they are cool and cling to my fingertip
like wrinkled balloons.

One iris forms a withered fist,
soft knuckles sticky with dying,
while the next one up the emerald stem
unfurls a new sanctuary
of captive purple radiance
our eyes enter anew,

"Lavender Cathedral" was first published in The Bitter Oleander, then in an online "gallery" on three candles. It later became part of Teaching Bones to Fly, my first book. The photo of the iris was taken this afternoon. I also found a four-leaf clover at the top of the hill.

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