I’m not shy. Pink, naked, a showy flower on a long, leafless stalk, I
emerge from the earth—almost overnight, it seems—in July, when
the grass in the coastal hills is bone-dry. Can you guess my name?
More hints? I might be telling the sad tale of Orpheus’ wedding day
backwards—Eurydice risen from the dead, seeking her beloved
among the living. I might be a shepherdess in an eclogue of Vergil.
Right here is where a descendant of Sacajawea died, fleeing the
very race of men her daring ancestor led through perils to the
Pacific. I might be a ghost, a new memory. Surprised to see me?
So is the pickerel surprised at the sight of a winged ouzel swimming
underwater, and the keen-eyed gull at the leap of a flying fish into
its portion of sky. I thought you knew better. Don’t you get it yet?
Earth to air, air to water, water to fire, all in flux. Boy to lily, bird to
rose, whale to lupine, each nourished by the other, sad and happy,
for returning is such sweet sorrow, whatever the flower’s name.
Joe Smith poet
Honoria Starbuck illustration