Tulips for Elsie

The day before you died I thought I’d bring
You tulips for your bedside table, bright
Ones, pink and white, to give your gaze a place
To rest, to make your labor seem less harsh.
I told my daughter so, my four-year-old
Who’d told me I should visit you, who’d hinted:
Your work, this dying business you were in,
Was making worldly things seem flimsy, thin.
The day moved on and tulips left my mind, though,
Until I thought of you again, too late,
The night descending, bringing sleep’s regrets.
The morning came and with its obligations
Distracting me, I let my dream of tulip
Fields plow under and turned to hear the news.

Comments

  1. Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says

    …your labor…
    Your work, this dying business you were in…

    Apt words from a fine poem.

  2. Jonathan Webb says

    Sorry Jonathan.

  3. Jonathan,

    Usually, gratuitious rhymes are irritating – if you have one rhyme, you really ought to have it all rhyme.

    But in this case, the rhyme is a masterfully wrought emotional anchor. The movement of the poem draws to the rhyme in the first half and then like a mirror, the refelction continues, spreading out from the second half of the rhyme with a new understanding of the tulip – and other things…. More fragile and for all that more beautiful.

    The same tulips which provide

    your gaze a place
    To rest, to make your labor seem less harsh.

    become transformed in the eyes of a child because she is herself new to “this dying business,” “making worldly things seem flimsy, thin.”

    So that afterwards,

    I let my dream of tulip
    Fields plow under and turned to hear the news.

    Leaving us with an exquisite ambiguity at the end which, like dirt to the roots of a plucked tulip, allows the poem to cling to the hope of resurrection amidst the sorrow of burial.

    After all… the tulip is a perennial. But you know that bettert than a botanist in this poem.

    Well done!

    JOB

  4. Jonathan Potter says

    Thanks gents, for your very kind comments and perceptive readings.

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