Asphodel, That Greeny Flower

William Carlos Williams famously wrote:

Of asphodel, that greeny flower,

        like a buttercup

               upon its branching stem–

save that it’s green and wooden–

           I come, my sweet,

                   to sing to you.

By the time Bill Williams wrote the lines above he had been affected and considerably by a stroke that made it difficult for him to talk or to hold a pen.  The lines reflect the urgency of his condition and the poem, a love poem to his wife Flossie, is filled, if you will, with flowers that arrive on the page with the abiding love that has grown and been steepened in times of physical duress and fading memories.

I was thinking of Dr. Williams today because we are living in a time of keen cynicism about the life of our nation.  Such abstracted and despairing feelings come when people are drawn away from close observation of the living world around them.  The very medium of television has contributed the most deleterious effects in this area and plenty of words have been cast upon the waters of that argument so I won’t carry on about it.

But Williams, old and dying, wrote a farewell poem to his wife and said that when she came into his life:

         your dear self,

mortal as I was,

    the lily’s throat

         to the hummingbird!

By Jove, old Bill Williams! That’s the stuff!

Upon meeting his wife Williams said: the whole world became my garden…

My wife Connie’s birthday is coming up and I hope to give her the new hummingbirds and lilies and some strawberries too.

If I write poetry for another thirty years I still won’t write a poem as great as old Doc Williams but I will be steadfast with joined hands.

Let us henceforth look to the greeny flowers…


Author: skuusisto

Poet, Essayist, Blogger, Journalist, Memoirist, Disability Rights Advocate, Public Speaker, Professor, Syracuse University

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