Saturday, November 5, 2011

Circle of White



Circle of White


When I was young
down at the feed store
earnestly buying flower seeds,
in jeans dirty at
the knees, with broken nails
the old woman behind the counter told me,
Make sure you buy
some white ones.


I smiled without
looking up,
bought red zinnias

blue larkspur, orange marigolds.

Another year, dividing
daylily roots the color of parsnips, 
separating twined fingerlets 
of old gold crusted in red clay
with the ladies from the garden club, one said
The only problem with daylilies is
there are no white ones.


I looked at her, frowned,
kept the pale cool stream of water

running gently on the fat-toed feet, 
mothers and fathers
of bright orange and yellow and pink.


After a rose lecture by a very
old man, forty years

in the glasshouses, come
to teach us type and form, 
soil and pruning, texture and scent, 
I asked him which 
was his favorite rose.

He sighed 

his old man's patient
twist of breath,
pretended to love them all, 
but when I pressed him 
named the Snow Queen.

Now I’m an old woman
forty years in the garden, 
witched with white
a circle centered in snowflake flowers,
so simple, so clean

so plain and innocent of thrusting,
that all other colors are truer beside them. 


Above the autumn chaos of orange, scarlet, 
amber lemon sulfur yellow, dead brown
or hopeful blue gold crouch 

of next spring's pansies,
the last white rose calls to the eye,
cold bright and singular

as the first summer lightning 
in the night sky,
strong

as the sudden quiet that comes
after tears and howls,
the sleep after too much
Of everything.







 November 2010
revised November 2011




Posted for    Poetics   at dVerse Poets Pub






Header photo: English Hare with Purple Fennel, by joy ann jones
The rose mentioned in the poem was  Rosa 'Frau Karl Druschki'  antique climbing  hybrid perpetual rose, 
bred in Germany by Peter Lambert, 1901

35 comments:

  1. great circle of life poem.

    you have such a passion for flowers...hmmmm

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  2. love that last stanza...and funny how over time our views change..things we could not understand once, time and trial teach us...and white, a bit of innocense around us is a welcome thing...nice use of color through out in wide variety as well...

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  3. and a german rose it is..smiles... this is magical hedge...the set up...in jeans dirty at the knees, with broken nails...the old woman.....witched with white
    a circle centered in snowflake flowers...really magical...somehow sent shivers down my spine all the way while reading..

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  4. Exquisite, unfolding in a very rose-like way-- wonderful and delicious diction-- hopeful blue crouch of the pansies, and as I turn 63 today for reasons beyond my comprehension, I love this stanza:

    Now I’m an old woman
    forty years in the garden,
    witched with white
    a circle centered in snowflake flowers,
    so simple, so clean
    so plain and innocent of thrusting,
    that all other colors are truer beside them.

    as ever, you rock, HW. xxxj

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  5. white is so much more than a background...so very well written

    Peace

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  6. Love your flower poems, they have such gentle knowing in the careful naming and coloring ... and how fitting the flower that's white -- the one excluded from the catalogue, the one that begins and ends a life, it the one that includes all the others in it anyway. White is bridal, it is purity, it is baby's breath, it is death and calcination, it is triumphant blooming in winter. Lovely. - Brendan

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  7. Like Jen said, the poem itself is rose-like, unfolding petal by petal. I love the assonance-- your ear for internal rhyme is right on.

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  8. Quite breathtakingly beautiful. I love the way age parallels the drawing of colour back to it's pure state, It's state of reflection, white.
    White of lilies, funerals, weddings, births and the simplicity that both the elderly and children share.
    I have bookmarked this poem for re-reading.
    It has deeply touched me.

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  9. Now I’m an old woman
    forty years in the garden,
    witched with white
    a circle centered in snowflake flowers,
    so simple, so clean
    so plain and innocent of thrusting,
    that all other colors are truer beside them.

    This could be a poem in itself. Lovely.

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  10. i like the circle of life.. my fav lines are:

    Now I’m an old woman
    forty years in the garden,
    witched with white
    a circle centered in snowflake flowers,
    so simple, so clean
    so plain and innocent of thrusting,
    that all other colors are truer beside them.

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  11. I have never thought of it like that. But I see your point and gained insight. White would have made the colors more outstanding, distinct against it. White: a shade of significant presence yet never overwhelming. Lovely colors and images tempered by the white.

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  12. Your poem is like a masterfully drawn enso. It felt like a conversation I've always wanted to have, answering questions I didn't know to ask, leaving me comforted and connected.

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  13. I remember this very well, though not well enough to know exactly what you've changed or what I may have said about it the first time. Anyway, you build so skillfully up to that marvelous ending, that one has to re-read it to fully appreciate what you've done here. Who else but you could manage to make collaption sound so beautiful?

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  14. White flowers are so beautiful... I guess some are fooled by the vibrancy of other colors, but white is wise.

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  15. Delightful! Nothing forced, wonderful cadence (I'd like to hear this read aloud), a fully realized story. And, of course, all the meanings attached to those various flowers and colors!

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  16. So terrifically specific. I loved the sense of all the actual flowers here, as well as of course, aging with that knowledge. K.

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  17. this one of the most beautiful pieces I have read from you, imho. it actually brought a tear to my eye. thank you and many kudos!

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  18. Gosh, thanks so much everyone. I thought it was a bit underwhelming, but I'm glad so many have enjoyed it. I love my garden, and I love writing about it to such a sympathetic audience even more.

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  19. all other colors are truer beside them.

    This sounds very close to your heart... ah, I see above it is - it is a very touching and sweet read.

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  20. Oh yeah, and I forgot to mention, the pic of the garden is like showing another shelf from the grounds of Hedgewitch's Castle. Library of blooms, indeedy ... -Brendan

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  21. I love this and have trod this path in my own garden from the bright hues of a novice to the truer, softer blends of experience, and only now recognise that purity only shines in the great contrasts of life.

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  22. I can't tell you how affecting I found your words to be, except to mention the goosebumps and tears which were my body's response to this work of ever so human art.

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  23. beautiful we sometimes overlook the understated that allows others to shine ....thank you for sharing x

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  24. Thanks again all. I'll be around to yours later if I haven't made it yet--right now I've got some gardening to do before our next weathermaker comes through.

    @B: True--our gardens evolve much the way our tastes in reading do, only the unsuccessful attempts at absorbing the pneuma in question show even more clearly. ;-) I always enjoy your garden shots, so lush and unrestrained, and a fitting accompaniment to your own style.

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  25. make sure you buy some white ones

    We often are so enamored with the brilliant promises of color. Loved this quiet blossoming of the loveliness in white.

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  26. People are great with advice but we've still got to find our own way through it all. Cryptic and enlightening. Thank you for sharing.

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  27. Oh my... nice, really... and the white shines in twilight garden... beautiful peace

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  28. Truly, a beautiful write of nature and understanding. White, yes, how we reject it in the beginning, but as we grow older, wiser, we realize its value, its quiet ability to shine. Your words remind us the importance of clarity, the cherish the ordinary ~

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  29. I love gardening and find it the source of so many poems. So good how you focused on the importance of white and what it does for us and nature. Reading this, somehow, made me feel happy and whole. Your poems resonate with my soul, hedge

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  30. Oh, this beauty enriched my life. It is a gorgeous poem, with a final stanza that reminds me of the words engraved on Rilke's gravestone.

    Your poem will stay with me, to be recalled next spring and the next. I feel really close to you for the love of white flowers. When we bought this old house (13 years on Tuesday) it was autumn, so when spring came I was bedazzled by what bloomed. Yes, there were colorful roses and rhodies and azaleas. But someone in the past had thoughtfully cultivated white as a splendid counterpoint to the color. We have a very old white camelia tree (it is about 20' tall), and two mature white azalea bushes that made me go crazy for their whiteness. I planted three white rose arbors, three white rose bushes, white carnations, and other white small flowers. My favorite arbor is the Pleasant Hill Cemetery Rose with the most beautiful scent of any rose i've smelled, and the dearest small roses

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  31. Oh may I come back to this again and again? I truly love it. It is so true! I did not always appreciate white flowers. What is it about this age, the beauty that comes as a surprise, a light like no other? As you perfectly and tremendously ended this gorgeous poem:

    as the sudden quiet that comes
    after tears and howls,
    the sleep after too much
    Of everything.


    Really wonderful!

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  32. pure delight in color and words.
    magical memories.

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  33. This poem - a platinum piece - white in all its meanings is so pervasive, so pure and so penetrating. I agree with all comments, so cogent, so tangible; I had those reactions, too. I loved this.

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'Poetry is an echo asking a shadow to dance' ~Carl Sandburg