To "drink the moment through long straws": a poem by A. E. Stallings

Tulips, NYC

Today as I prep for tomorrow's poetry class by reading A. E. Stallings's Olives, I thought I would share one of that book's many ravishing poems:


These tulips make me want to paint:
Something about the way they drop
Their petals on the tabletop
And do not wilt so much as faint,

Something about their burnt-out hearts,
Something about their pallid stems
Wearing decay like diadems,
parading finishes like starts,

Something about the way they twist,
As if to catch the last applause,
And drink the moment through long straws,
And how, tomorrow, they'll be missed.

The way they're somehow getting clearer,
The tulips make me want to see--
The tulips make the other me
(The backwards one who's in the mirror,

The one who can't tell left from right),
Glance now over the wrong shoulder
To watch them get a little older
And give themselves up to the light.

Cut flowers always break my heart.  The minute I put them in a vase, I start watching for signs of their inevitable decay, grieving for the moment, soon to come, when I will have to throw them out.  I love how this poem doesn't deny that tension but in fact finds the tulips more beautiful--more worthy of being painted--because of it.


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