japonisme: the ver sacrum

20 March 2007

the ver sacrum

Nothing Stays Put

by Amy Clampitt

In memory of Father Flye, 1884-1985


The strange and wonderful are too much with us.
The protea of the antipodes--a great,
globed, blazing honeybee of a bloom--
for sale in the supermarket! We are in
our decadence, we are not entitled.

What have we done to deserve
all the produce of the tropics--
this fiery trove, the largesse of it
heaped up like cannonballs, these pineapples, bossed
and crested, standing like troops at attention,
these tiers, these balconies of green, festoons
grown sumptuous with stoop labor?

The exotic is everywhere, it comes to us
before there is a yen or a need for it. The green-
grocers, uptown and down, are from South Korea.
Orchids, opulence by the pailful, just slightly
fatigued by the plane trip from Hawaii, are
disposed on the sidewalks; alstroemerias, freesias
fattened a bit in translation from overseas; gladioli
likewise estranged from their piercing ancestral crimson;
as well as, less altered from the original blue cornflower
of the roadsides and railway embankments of Europe, these
bachelor's buttons. But it isn't the railway embankments
their featherweight wheels of cobalt remind me of, it's

a row of them among prim colonnades of cosmos,
snapdragon, nasturtium, bloodsilk red poppies,
in my grandmother's garden: a prairie childhood,
the grassland shorn, overlaid with a grid,
unsealed, furrowed, harrowed and sown with immigrant grasses,
their massive corduroy, their wavering feltings embroidered
here and there by the scarlet shoulder patch of cannas
on a courthouse lawn, by a love knot, a cross stitch
of living matter, sown and tended by women,
nurturers everywhere of the strange and wonderful,
beneath whose hands what had been alien begins,
as it alters, to grow as though it were indigenous.

But at this remove what I think of as
strange and wonderful, strolling the side streets of Manhattan
on an April afternoon, seeing hybrid pear trees in blossom,
a tossing, vertiginous colonnade of foam, up above--
is the white petalfall, the warm snowdrift
of the indigenous wild plum of my childhood.

Nothing stays put. The world is a wheel.
All that we know, that we're
made of, is motion.


From The Collected Poems of Amy Clampitt, published by Alfred A. Knopf. Copyright © 1997

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4 Comments:

Blogger Dominic Bugatto said...

Another enjoyable post. Love the second image of the 'swimmers' and the umbrella pic.

21 March, 2007 09:51  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

thanks so much dom. i always love hearing what you think.

i hadn't planned on using anything like that, just more a whole sacred spring thing with the viennese secessionist magazine, but those two images were just so funny and wonderful i couldn't resist.

21 March, 2007 12:19  
Blogger Princess Haiku said...

The text is as lovely as the photographs in this one. I heard that the cherry trees were in blossom in Tokyo?

21 March, 2007 21:00  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

pretty much the same things are in bloom at the same time here and there. it's a glorious time, isn't it?

22 March, 2007 18:13  

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