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Only the imagination is real

Posted May 03 2014 1:47pm


The line Asphodel, that greeny flower came, unbidden, to my lips the other day, and this morning in the drone of construction on my street, I woke up to it.

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.

William Carlos Williams', the great American poet, wrote that long love poem in his seventies, after a period of great suffering, and whether or not you like poetry, there's a bit in its many lines that might speak to you of love and power and imagination and poetry.

This morning, not only did I wake up to that line in my head, but later I opened some mail, one being a piece from Poetry magazine with a request to subscribe beginning with this to Dear Reader
                                            It is difficult
            to get the news from poems
                             yet men die miserably every day
           of what is found there.

(from Asphodel, that Greeny Flower)

As a superstitious person, in love with symbol and signs, I pulled my old copy of Pictures from Brueghel and other poems by William Carlos Williams off my bookshelf. I haven't opened it, probably, in years, had forgotten that I bought it for $.50 from a used bookshop in Newport, Rhode Island during the summer of 1983 when I spent three months there, living with ten other girls in a ramshackle house.




It was the summer of The Americas Cup, the great sailing race, and we girls would hang out on the docks during the day, flirting with sailors, sometimes getting invited on board gigantic yachts. We bicycled on winding roads lined with mansions and went to rocky beaches, the water too cold and rough to swim in. We worked as waitresses and housekeepers and jewelry store salesgirls (me). Too young to serve alcohol and thus wait tables, I sat hunched, reading The Idiot on a stool in a jewelry store, on one of the piers that catered to rich tourists who rarely came inside. Despite my friends and our crowded living conditions, I remember it as a lonely summer, when I wandered into that tiny bookstore, how many hours I spent mooning in its aisles, fingering dusty little paperbacks, pining for a certain boy who had appeared then disappeared and appeared again in my life that summer.

There is no power 
                 so great as love 
                                   which is a sea, 
which is a garden -- 
                 as enduring 
                                   as the verses 
of that blind old man 
                   destined 
                                   to live forever.

There's no real point to this meandering post other than the pleasure of memory and perhaps an affirmation of the imagination. The drone of machines continues outside my door, the suffocating heat of the last few days has apparently broken, and I have double headers of baseball and lacrosse to attend. I have boys that I love playing these games, boys yet unaware of poetry, and The Idiot (except, of course, as it pertains to epilepsy) and a mother who still is that girl, an asphodel, that greeny flower.

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