V  P  R

Contemporary Poetry and Poetics




         for Curt Hoffman(1945-1998)

So thick on the ground they look like weeds,
Cleome come up, it seems from every
Seed they sow.  Winter doesn't daunt them,
So in spring they're a small carpet spread
Between the daffodils, a soft, mild green.
Soon it's textured; some (part of some design)
Rising above the rest, so saving their lives.
Their stems grow thick as toothpicks, skewers,
Pencils, dowels over the long season.
Downy stem hairs coarsen, pricking careless hands.

All this noticing came after I'd planted
Them myself.  Before, they were only tall, feathery
Flowers in Curt's garden÷pink, shades of pink
From hot to pale to blush; elegant
Lacy globes of bloom, some a handspan full,
Small parachutes that kept opening upward,
Flowers for dreaming in, for cradling
The intricate airs, the light of the world,
And for starlight.              He taught me
The name÷clee-OH-may÷rounding the sound with
A kissing mouth, planting them
Part of the passionate universe.

Not a man's flower, you'd think, not phlox
Or hosta, or pungent marigold.
But Curt could surprise you that way.  Spiky
And strong-stemmed, he could bloom in a minute
With tenderness, hold out a delicate
Hand, invite you to dream.  Soft as petals,
His eyes would widen at the spaces his
Imagination held, the light cradled there.

My cleome came up on their own this year,
Some mixed in with the four-o-clocks,
Three in the sidewalk cracks.  One's pink, but I
Remember planting only white last year.
Likely that's accident, just seedy persistence,
Some way, through several seasons.  Or I'm just
                        But maybe it's a gift
From that same passionate universe where my friend
Lives now, still teaching and naming and
Growing, at home in the surprising light.

© by Kathleen Mullen


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