Florid, fluted, flowery petal, flounce
of a girls dress, ruffled fan,
striped in what seems to my simple eye
an excess of extravagance,
intricately ribboned like a secret
code, a colorist’s vision of DNA.
At the outermost edge a scallop
of ivory, then a tweedy russet,
then mouse gray, a crescent
of celadon velvet, a streak of sleek seal brown,
a dark arc of copper, then butter,
then celadon again, again butter, again
copper and on into the center, striped thinner
and thinner to the green, green moss-furry heart.
How can this be necessary?
Yet it grows and is making more
of itself, dozens and dozens of tiny starts, stars
no bigger than a baby’s thumbnail,
all of them sucking one young dead tree
on a gravel bank that will be washed away
in the next flooding winter. But isn’t the air here
cool and wet and almost unbearably sweet?
Ellen Bass is a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. Her most recent book, Like a Beggar (Copper Canyon Press, 2014), was a finalist for The Paterson Poetry Prize, The Publishers Triangle Award, The Milt Kessler Poetry Award, The Lambda Literary Award, and the Northern California Book Award. Previous books include The Human Line (Copper Canyon Press, 2007) and Mules of Love (BOA Editions, 2002) which won The Lambda Literary Award. She co-edited (with Florence Howe) the first major anthology of women’s poetry, No More Masks! (Doubleday, 1973).