Still Life With Monhegan Island Poppies

February 1, 2003

Poetry of the Times

I remember their wild clusters
waved by sea-breeze near the old
                        inn door,
petals and pods exposed like skin
sun might lick with lust,
how I yearned for beauty,
and the moment, like Rapunzel's
                        father, I stole them.

Back home, I scattered seeds on
                        injured earth,
and they spread on wind to the
                        wood-line,
past the pond where herons preen.
Years later, old temptation has
                        flown
over the mountain to grow
                        unchecked
in the cracks of city sidewalks.

Today I arrange thin green stems
and purple-black flowers in a
                        pewter vase
where they will live one more day
before blossoms fall like
                        punishment.
And after composing my dying still
                        life,
I stand in the garden with my
                        sharpened blade,

eager to cut heads
multiplied beyond all desire,
their halved seed pods
shaped in perfect omegas,
death and life blooming mindless
                        as HIV,
ready to flower on whatever island
                        will sustain them.