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Fischbach-Braden & Richmond – May 2013

Sylvia Fischbach-Braden and Carly Richmond exchanged words and art. Carly shared this image, “Iris,” with Sylvia:


In response, Sylvia wrote this poem:

You Keep Surprising Me

In Carly’s photograph
you look all lemony
and light-filled,
with your sepals and perianth,
three small petals erect and frilled,
three that hang
like Japanese lanterns,
or tongues of panting dogs.

She zooms in on your face,
inviting us to really see,
while leaving us in the dark
about your leaves, your loves,
your roots, habits,
uses, eccentricities,

I can’t meditate on your
mysterious particularity very long.
My need to generalize is too strong.
I itch to name
and classify you,
put you in your place.

I learn you’re an aquatic plant,
iris pseudacorus, tough as nails.
An invader!
A non-native!
Six feet tall with swords for leaves!
You travel in colonies, clumps,
thickets, stands, piratical legions.

You came from Europe!
By way of Canada!
You’ve spread from coast to coast:
in six states including Montana
you’re listed as a noxious weed
and treated as an infestation.

Lovely yellow flag,
thriving where our native cat-tails do,
outdoing them–
you’re shifting in my view
from luminous beauty
to crafty shrew.

You compete with early settlers:
sedges, rushes, ragweeds and wood-reeds,
marsh blue violets.

Merchants promote you
for decorating garden ponds;
you escape to man-made ditches and disruptions,
where heavy machinery
macerates you.

I find a tentative endorsement:
Terry from Murfreesboro, TN
reports that in her pond, you do
“…provide a place
for fish to spawn.”
And bees are fans.

Clovis, the Frankish king,
elevated you.
In 507 A.D.,
at the Battle of Vouillé
your torches helped him
beat back Alaric the Visigoth
by signifying shallow water,
a place where he could safely cross
the river Vienne.
That’s when he changed
the symbol on his flag
from three frogs
to three fleur-de-lys.

Glory days for you,
golden waterlogged friend,
though after Louis XVI
was guillotined in 1793,
the tricolor took your place:
your image was removed
from curtain and facade.

I imagine Carly meeting you
on vacation, somewhere exotic,
say Louisiana, near a swamp.
But no–

You were a lone plant
growing feebly at the front of her house
in Eldersburg, Maryland
when she moved in.
Seeing you struggle,
she took the trouble
(and transplanting is trouble,
I’ve done it myself)
to dig you up,
carry you to the back yard,
keeping your flopping, sun-dazed roots,
in one piece.
She made a hole for you,
just your size,
lowered you into your new bed,
snugged you in, watered you,
remembered you on long nights
when snow piled up.
In spring, you gave her blossoms.
That’s when she photographed you.

* * * * *

Sylvia shared this poem with Carly:

Five Year Plan  

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves
And the mome raths outgrabe.
    –-Lewis Carroll

Assemble Crazy Ann, the quilt
Explode the pomegranate fan
Address the salamandrine hilt
Disrobe the plump toucan.

Abolish every green constraint
Slice the Coffee Trader’s throat
Dilute the Goat’s Delight with paint
To seal its perforated coat.

Expel disheveled Tillicum
Refuse the Mill Wheel’s argument
Count the Broken Dishes, plumb
The folded lotus’ brunt.

Tease the whimbrel’s gauzy crest
Jimmy Elizabeth’s fat toucan
Skim blue heron’s Saturn breast
To still the apron man

X-ray Crazy Ann, that slut
Spit out the pomegranate’s core
Dress the salamandrine cut
And don’t forget the poor.

Salamandrine = like a salamander, lives in fire
Coffee Trader = a tan bearded iris
Goat’s Delight = a pastis-infused martini
Tillicum = gin, vermouth + a dash of Peychaud’s bitters; also a double-flowered form of Western trillium
Mill Wheel, Broken Dishes = quilt block names
Whimbrel = a kind of curlew

In response, Carly created this photographic still life, “The Whimbrel and the Mock Turtle:”

The Whimbrel and the Mock Turtle(1)

3 Comments leave one →
  1. May 13, 2013 7:27 pm

    Carly–I love it!!!

  2. ozma permalink
    May 13, 2013 11:04 pm

    PS–Ozma= Sylvia. (Also Sylvia’s black and emerald cat).

  3. Carly permalink
    May 14, 2013 9:38 pm

    Thanks! Yours too. This was a fun process!

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