Calycanthus

Bare branches.

Bare barren branches one would think.

Winter clouds

hang low

build up

release their burdens

unwanted on the earth.

Gray dropsical clouds.

Bare winter branches.

No hint of spring.

Then, suddenly,

near the garden gate

a cloud of fragrance

Looking up, the branches are no longer bare.

Calycanthos.

Winter flowering.

Sweeter than the spring

for unexpected.

Calycanthos.

The word itself

calyx, kylix, cup.

Anthos, flower.

Kalos, beautiful. kantharos.

Calyx, kylix, chalice.

Perfume, incense, offering.

The essence of the flower

an overwhelming essence that gives,

so unsparingly, of itself.

Touches, envelops

in an invisible blessing.

A flower with no preconceived idea

of what it should be.

Small waxy petals, sepals, tepals

The color of a winter Grecian gown

The blossoms of Joseph’s rod

Of Wilde’s Young King

or of the tree

that bursts into bloom

in the selfish giant’s garden.

From its deep red heart

the chalice of the blossom

does overflow with fragrance

A winter flowering

like my love.

A winter flowering without a past

and all the more the sweeter.      


Calycanthus  (January 6, 2003)

Bare barren branches

dark against low-hanging clouds.

The cold caress of winter

on my cheeks.

Then, suddenly,

an unwonted fragrance

belies the month.

The branches by the gate,

no longer bare,

have burst into an

unexpected

winter flowering.

Sweeter than

any long-awaited spring.

Calycanthus fragrans.

Small waxen petals

the color of a winter Grecian gown.

A silent modest flower,

pouring out its essence

from the chalice of its wine-red heart.

A blessing in this winter of the soul,

a winter flowering

like our love.

2 thoughts on “Calycanthus

  1. Beautiful lines Erika, and both versions are a subtle delight to read. The calycanthus seems perfectly chosen as the vehicle to carry this sense of the unexpectedness and sweetness of love. I find myself wondering why ‘like our love’ has changed to ‘like my love’ in the later version – no significance I suppose. Marvellous lines.

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  2. I’ve been thinking about why the opening of this piece so resonates with me. I think it’s because it reminds me of you, yourself:

    The essence of the flower…that gives, so unsparingly, of itself. Touches, envelops in an invisible blessing. A flower with no preconceived idea of what it should be…

    Thank you for introducing me to this “silent modest flower, pouring out its essence from the chalice of its wine-red heart. A blessing in this winter of the soul….”

    As I reread both parts of this piece, it feels like a meditation on memory, and maybe you will forgive my presumption in saying that. In any case, to hear you read this double poem and to see your photograph that accompanies it is a special delight. You, modest Erika, are a blessing to so many of us.

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