750 Readings


This poem is not about sex
despite its title, it’s about irises,
and yet, it must be conceded,
their color, form and subtle sway
attract me – natural seduction –
to buzz across Liminga Road
like a lustful bee on its first foray
into the drowsy humming day.

We had a warm dry spring,
perfect for lupine, then a rainy June
that flooded the marsh
across the road and made
to bloom a profusion of irises,
light violet petals with yellow
blushes and deep purple veins.

From the edge of the ditch
I see Van Gogh’s painting,
purple flags on green spears
in clumps amid the marsh grass.
But stepping into the landscape
and bending to their level
I see them intimately
the way O’Keefe painted them,
and you know what they say.

I call them all petals
but I think the six in the center
are true petals, while the three
longest are – what? – peels,
tongues, labia, angel wings?
Poets should learn botany,
I’m sure Gary Snyder said once,
along with metaphor, taxonomy
of species as well as meters.

You can see them
as showy form and color
in the lush season that belies
the world’s sadness or
you can see them as genitalia,
which maybe is just another way
to say the same thing.

But I see irises a third way,
as three-by-three arrays of petals,
three to the second power,
even if I can’t distinguish
lip from tongue, finger from toe
or tic-tac-toe or nine-pins.

Irises fill the wet ditch.
Lupine, purple and pink and white,
stand waist high, chest high
where marsh rises to
mixed aspen and pine.
In the meadow, daisies
yellow and white like deviled eggs
dot the green field in the pattern
that is no pattern, the perfect
number to fill the empty space
like the infinite stars, too many
to be made, or even charted
by a million angels in a million years.

And then there are the poppies!
Posted 06/15/10
Comments (0)