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PARSON, Donald

Glass flowers

I stand in wonder. What amazing art!

No counterfeit is this, but counterpart

Itself, carved with the infinite detail

That makes the plodding step of patience fail.

From life’s authentic prompt-book is this leaf.

And here are flowers, petaled every one

To cup the rain and captivate the sun:

The poignant lilac whose sharp sword of scent

Can make the memory bleed – that sacrament

We call a rose – a thousand other blooms,

Forever mummied in their crystal tombs.

And yet . somehow . as I behold

These mimic plants, they leave the fancy cold;

Then, frigid patterns, sleep inviolate

Within your glassy cells. Unkindly fate

Denied you death and so denied you life

I want my plants to feel the tonic strife

Of all the testing elements; to know

The flagellation of the rain, the snow,

The scathing sun, the shrapnel of the hail;

To bear the hundred lashes of the gale

And all that soul of man or flower needs

For flowering – the rivalry of weeds,

Not clipped or clamped in time’s unyielding vise –

Eternal molds of sempiternal ice –

Farewell, stark forms. No more can you beguile,

You wear the sleety artificial smile

That freezes as it falls. My earthly flowers

Can hear the wing-beat of the flying hours

And, blushing for your deep immortal lie,

Are unafraid – nay, eager – proud-to die.

So shall they burgeon with a sweeter breath

Because, like us, they wait the frost of death.