August in Italy

August 4, 1994

Cerulean chickory still lines the road,

ragged flecks torn from the sky.

Spikes of yellow mullein branch into

menorahs of golden stars with hearts of flame.


Vanguards of creeping dwarf convolvulus

insinuate their way between the stones

encroach on asphalt, dot shorn roadside banks.

Pale rosy faces greet the morning sun,

pleated cornucopias just tinged with pink

close in upon themselves once noon is past.


The mint has gone all straggly.

Pallid clustered calyxes of bladder campion

pinch in their mouths where rocket bursts

of curling petals make way for shooting stamen sprays.

Chalices so deep none but the nocturnal moth

can drink its nectar.


Three madder violet strokes

have left their mark upon each deep-lobed petal

of mauve mallows whose dark green cinquefoil leaves

stand rank against the fence,

sprawl low in brownish fields.


Further back, froths of Queen Anne’s lace

triumph over sun-sered grass.

Lace, age-yellowed – color Isabella

as the Italians say.

Isabella of Austria who vowed not to change her shift

until her husband Albert came home victorious

from his siege of Ostend.

Three years it took him

and from white the shift turned dirty yellow.

Queen Anne’s lace. Isabella too was queen.


Stop! Pick a bunch and take them home.

Capture late summer in a vase.

Illusion! By tomorrow the cerulean sky

and rose-tinged trumpets will have shrivelled

into nothing, withered into rags.

It is along the road that summer lingers on

with hosts of blossoms ever ready to step in,

supplant those, in their turn expendable,

whose brief term of existence lasts but a day.

And those of longer life have also reached

their point of transmutation.

Sullen heads of burnt-out suns

hang heavy, bending towards the earth.

On high, their blazing namesake moves pitiless across the sky

and as we seek the shade,

acquiescent, we can only say

“E’ tempo suo” – this is after all

August in Italy.

4 thoughts on “August in Italy

  1. This post is music to this gardener’s ear. The names, the colors—but this piece is about far more than flowers. Like your mother, mine had a similar idea about flowers being sad “because they always die.” I feel so much the opposite. I love flowers in all of their stages. Even after they’re gone, if the petals dry to a pretty color, I save them, too.

    I especially value flowers for the way they reflect the life cycle. Even after annuals go to seed, they lay the groundwork for new life. And if I cut them back at the right time, I can trick them into healthy, new life— at least for a while. In any case, the memory remains.

    Envoyé de mon Di-Phone

    Liked by 1 person

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