Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Puzzle In The Language of Flowers

Puzzle in the Language of Flowers
(translation below)

I dump the puzzle box
out on the ground
each piece becomes
a flower in yesterday’s bouquet
a bone of tomorrow’s skeleton.

I pick up concave paper polygons
knobbed cardboard segments
that seem to represent part of an eyebrow, or the side
of a building, but are really a sprig of acacia
lacy as midnight's clouds, thorny as memory’s stems

and here, a misshapen lump of astringent
yellow sun, the witch hazel that began it all.
That obstinate wedge of azure sky fitting nowhere
has to be the withered trumpet of a
morning glory, heavenly blue still.

Ah, an end piece.
The frame that hangs the whole
surprises the hand by jumping up
a striped carnation pinwheeled 
with a monotonous grief
that makes me recoil
throwing it
far across the muddy ground,
lost on the moss where it
comes to rest just bones, 

tiny, articulated phalanges,
the frontal and parietal
temporal, occipital, mandible
white as frost; out of the cardboard jaw
perhaps you can see a few daisies growing

among the marigolds, rosemary and rue
there for a century’s moment till
the next wildfire passes through.

October 2011

Posted for   OpenLinkNight   at dVerse Poets Pub
Join us for an evening of shared poetic goodness at the pub, open from 3:00 PM EST Tuesday till midnight EST tomorrow.

Process Notes:

acacia = secret love                 witch hazel=magic spell 
morning glory=love in vain        striped carnation=refusal
marigold=pain and grief            daisy=innocence, simplicity, cheer, true love 
rosemary=remembrance            rue=regret      


  1. shivers at the end...seen plenty of bleached bones in the fields...once life now stripped by the ants and the bones and the puzzle metaphor as well...grief is the hinge point here...dont know if i would allow to throw it all out...but then again...

  2. Jigsawin' with the Hedge ... We watch her process of memory and mojo, pondering, pulling this or that piece from the pile, yearning to see the whole. And then that "end piece" that makes the picture entire: so sad that that piece, when piled on, collapses the house of cards. Makes me wonder if that houseshaker bonebreaker is really just the penultimate piece, the one that has to be thrown out to complete the picture a different way. Pay no attention to those strollin' bones! Marigolds on the way! - Brendan

  3. @bri--you are quick, my friend. Thanks.

    @B: Hope not(marigolds represent pain & grief)--I'd rather have the daisies. Thanks for watching me ponder the inexplicable. ;_)

  4. Your love of all things flowering is very evident in this piece, and the meaning of each flower adds a whole new layer of meaning to the puzzle.

  5. Many-layered, this piece. Love the way you put them all together. Beautifully intricate; showing different meanings/views with a slight tilt of my head.

  6. Great use of the puzzle metaphor to really add that much more depth to your piece, nice!

  7. Well, how awesome is this?? I'll tell ya how awesome. Freaking awesome!!

    I gave up puzzles so long ago. Except the ones with forget-me-knots, and a promise of first Lady Slipper in the spring barrens not far from the flung bones.

    So.... do you just write poems all day, or what??? I picture you as a walking poem upon the moors and meadows. :)

  8. sometimes it's good to dump the puzzle box
    out on the ground to become a better picture and see what still fits...shivers at the the metaphor hedge

  9. Daisies are my flower - Marguerites - the little ones in the grass are daisies. I was told on the day of my baptism, the house was covered in them as my baptismal name is Margaret.

    Love the puzzle metaphor of life here with the meanings of those Victorian flowers. I think gardening is a metaphor. Kudos to you for doing it in Oklahoma. In the TX panhandle it was always for nought because late spring freezes killed everything but elm trees.

    Excellent as always. G.

  10. Beautiful...and sad. I agree with Claudia...sometimes we have to dump the puzzle see.

  11. I like what you've done here, using the symbolism of flowers to puzzle out the meaning of love in your poem.

  12. Great use of puzzle piece... nice flow... great use of phrases

  13. at first i thought you may have been putting together a potion that would enable my 'god box' lol

    you create brilliant pictures in my noggin and weave a wonderful tapestry - woven tight enough to respect but with enough space to engage and get lost in.

  14. I can only handle jigsaws if I have a hammer and maybe a valium... You've put it together with great beauty and skill, weaving your beloved plants into the poetry to add color and texture. Fabulous.


  15. I love the metaphors here. Searching for meaning in ambiguity is a process we all go through. Again, I learned something about botany and the meanings of flowers by reading your poetry too!

  16. Jigsaw puzzles frustrate me to no end. Your final image as a close to this was bone pun intended! When you substitute the meanings, they get even colder. Sneaky lady you! I was thinking rose petals and lavender fields! I should know better ;)

  17. Only for you will I admit to owning a copy of a book called Tussie Mussies: The Victorian Art of Expressing Yourself in the Language of Flowers. I seem to be in a confessional mood this evening (as earlier I admitted to composing a modern dance to a radical French feminists words – which I only tell you now in the hope it will make you laugh). Enough, I love it and am leaving you a tussie mussie for celebrating special people (there's a bouquet here for admiring a creative talent/rising star): calla lily (panache); bleeding heart & honey locust (elegance); rocket (fashionable); sage (esteem); fushia (taste); and pinks (talent).

  18. Great write. You did a great job tying the subjects together- painting a well-defined image along the way- the stanza listing fingers, toes, brain, jaw- is so well-done-easily my favorite- And side note, Acacia's been a favorite word of mine for a while now- nice touch- thanks for the read

  19. Thanks all, and yes, Natasha--indeed you should have!

    @Anna: Tussie Mussies--I take it these are posies of some sort? What i would give to look between the pages of that book, and I love that you have it, and also that you enliven your duller moments composing dances to radical French feminists.I send you the dark pink rose of gratitude, and the pear blossom of lasting friendship in return. Or maybe just some yellow cosmos as that's the only thing still blooming here. ;-)

  20. @Fred: thanks, man. I love that word also--it rolls off the tongue, and the leaves and tiny flowers are delicate and beautiful, but the thorns are horrible, very appropriate to its symbolism.

  21. Love the way you have brought the 'flower' in yesterday's bouquet into that of "a bone of tomorrow's skeleton"

    The story of life, like the words in this line, "We are but a moments sunlight, fading on the grass."

    How fleeting and fast life flies by. Beautiful like the flowers but destined to be tomorrow's skeleton. Really like the way you brought this altogether.

    Roger ☺

  22. 'The magisterial Oxford English Dictionary defines 'tuzzy mussy' as 'a bunch or spray of flowers, a nosegay, a garland of flowers,'. It first appeared in print in 1440: a 'tyte tust or tusemose of flowyrs or othyr herbys'. The root 'tus' suggests a relationship to tussock, while mussie, a rhyme on tussie, refers to the damp moss pressed around the stems to keep them fresh.' I will scan and send you a photo :)!

  23. Joy,
    Saying it with flowers is a universal pastime for myriads of reasons. But knowing the language of flowers is fascinating. It might even sooth the emotions by doing it with someone dear - all without words!


  24. Many many thanks all. for stopping by and leaving your thoughts.

    @Anna: Ha! Magisterial indeed. I loveth the herbys wrapped in muss. I usually use paper towels--what a degenerate age we live in. Way cool on the pic. I used to have an old Victorian epistle called "True Womanhood" wherein you could find 'receipts' for every household necessity, plus much sage advice on womanliness which was totally wasted on me, but alas, the hippy gypsies that once infested my life made off with it. It must have weighed fifteen pounds.

  25. The imagery, inferences and explanations make this piece all the more wondrous. I read it several times, and each read elicited a new reaction. Well done.

  26. You are one of those poets among us that is in a different league. I count myself lucky just to be reading here, and then the fact that you all let me play, too, is unbelievable. My point is that you are crazy good at composing elaborate puzzles of poetry for us, and this is no exception. Pretty amazing :)

  27. Love the intricacy of this puzzle and how each piece makes up an important part of the "whole." Really fascinating to learn what each flower represents too. Nicely done, you wove this together so well.

  28. Well done. I enjoyed learning more about flowers and their symbolism, it was a good review, although I really had to use the key to read your poetry twice. Now we know what a talent you are!

  29. The intricacies of this, layer upon layer, pieced together, then stitched to hold the ties that bind. Fascinating, eloquent writing.

  30. Multi-layered, the puzzle does unravel...I liked it very much..

    a song, this is?

  31. Interesting that we both have flowers as a theme this week. Another intelligent and engaging poem, full of intriguing imagery and masterful control.Brilliant!

  32. I'll read the other comments after I make my own, so forgive me if I repeat what anyone else has said...I see you have a lot of comments.

    I'm SO glad I didn't comment last night, when I was too tired to appreciate this poem. Joy, I thought you had mangled the bar so badly, that it could never be raised again... then you write this. First of all, the title is inspired, intriguing, and beautiful. Secondly, the concept, merging the puzzle with the flowers and their meanings, is absolutely original and stunning. I expect it was probably a lot of labor to get this to work so well. it could have slid off into disorder or paint-by-number, but it never even came close. Every line, every nuance, is spot-on and emotionally wringing. I can feel the longing, the melancholy, the disappointed love and the loss of exciting but doomed magic. It's a masterpiece, and I don't believe I have ever used that word in a comment before.

    Leave it to our resident garden witch to conceive and create this. But curse you for raising up, and throwing down, the bar once again.

  33. There's something here, a sense of sadness, or perhaps a feeling of conscious destruction, something chilling. I like that I can't place it, just like your unfinished puzzle.

  34. Not used to putting meaning to flowers so this one is a puzzle to me in many ways. And I enjoyed reading it several times over to gain the picture and enjoy how you use the flowers to symbolize various emotions and facets of love.Thanks also for the footnotes on the flowers and their meanings.

    Mostly, I see this poem as a whole metaphor about life. Life as a whole is puzzle to be put together as we go along -- sometimes we encounter pieces that fit easily and we can tell where they go, and others look like they go on a certain spot but really they are something else all together. The end suggest that we are not necessarily given just one box of puzzles, perhaps each stage is a picture to be put together.

    Very thought-provoking poem.

  35. This is an extraordinary piece! I love each word you have chosen!

  36. You have taken flowery language, which so often times can be cliché in poetry, and turned it on its head with this poignant and anguished piece of poetry.

    This line for me is simply spectacular—

    That obstinate wedge of azure sky fitting nowherehas to be the withered trumpet of a morning glory, heavenly blue still.

    Fantastic word choices leads the readers on a dazzling journey…
    enjoyed this very much. – C.

  37. Lots of petal-ly goodness in these flower remedies. Puzzles and petals are linked in mystery, reflected in the insightful mind of the poetess. Daisies experienced with a little rueful regret, a wiser speaker comes through and uses it all to our benefit.

  38. An intriguing exercise, only made more than a private symbol system when we are given the key at the end. Stunning, m'lady 'Witch!

  39. the evolution of colors here is such a quiet, vibrant ride. enjoyed the breakdown shakedown.

  40. Nicely done, Joy - you craft a whole world in these flowers, one fraught with dazzlingly intricate imagery...the symbolism, the depth, it's all so well-struck. A gorgeous portrait you weave. You certainly know how to guide us through the puzzlework.

  41. Good Lord! Quite a jigsaw you've solved here, using life's various emotions, each like a petal withering or blooming to the air that surrounds it..
    What a mind-nourishing read, Joy! A pleasure, as ever!

  42. flowers and leaves adds new meaning to this piece but thorns are ones we want to stay far far away from such a wonderful write

  43. I enjoyed your process notes, hedge. American Indian spirituality also lends meaning to flowers, stones, animals etc. and, to me, they have so much to teach. Beautiful poem.

  44. You do have such a way with the natural world and its mysteries. This is a wonderfully creative write that ends so fabulous "till the next wildfire passes through"...such is life, the burning, the regeneration. Must say, probably not your intention, but with the picture, for me, you painted a bit of O'Keefee, lovely ~

  45. perfectly drawn through the anatomy to its end. Wonderful write my friend! ~ Rose

    Finally ~
    I have nominated you for the Versatile Bloggers Award. Your site always inspires me in poetry and I believe you deserve this recognition. Please claim your award and follow the three requirements for this award. It is my honor to nominate you for this award. Thank you.

  46. Thanks all for working the puzzle with me. Appreciate your input always.

    @Angela:I almost used that O'Keefe painting of the floating ram skull with the hollyhock flower, but the copyright wasn't clear. Thanks for the high complement of my work reminding you of hers.

    @CRose: Thank you. I'll check it out.

  47. very deep thoughts, amazingly haunting imagery in the field where you play your game.

  48. What a wonderful exposition: love, loss, transformation, some circles, the Acacia is a symbol of eternal life, thorns and all. As always, I admire the vocabulary and imagination here. I enjoyed reading it.

  49. Love the layers, although I suppose I'm not catching all of them.


"We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, out of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry." ~William Butler Yeats

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