all poems and photographs
© by Maya Stein

all poems and photographs
© by Maya Stein
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Monday, January 24, 2011

the velocity of tulips
























It is a strange, unkempt day when you wake into
who you are meant to become. Not that anything
has happened, not really, not yet, but you recognize
how incrementally you’ve been shuffling along,
head down at all the little potholes preventing your full speed.
It is a disembodied, unsteadied moment when you realize
the wariness you have become accustomed to, a sloth-like
over-vigilance, and you wonder now, finally seeing
all the places you exerted yourself, stretched cardboard-thin,
muscled and maneuvered your poor eager body,
shape-shifted, even, your beautifully unwieldy spirit,
you wonder what your heart would do
with an open road.

It happens like this. One evening you are buying cereal
and packaged mushrooms and accepting a paper cup sample
of the store’s decaf French Roast. The aisles are crowded
as always. You’ve just come from the gym. Someone is hogging
the cheese display. You see them shifting their weight between
the triple crème and the fat-free. A mother is wrestling a cart
bearing gallons of organic milk and a squirrelly toddler.
The lines to the cashier remind you a little of those images
following a natural disaster, the filing behind a single water source,
just inches from mayhem. You fall in step like the little soldier you are,
plucking a bag of wheat bread from the tall, soft stack,
zeroing in on a package of free-range chicken thighs,
deciding against the bottle of wine and the sour-sweet jellybeans
and the frozen pizza that previously disappointed.
You remember you’re about to run out of detergent
and you consider the cost of artichokes and put one back.

But then, tulips.

You see them out of the corner of your eye,
yellow cups firing out of a thick stalk of storybook green.
You’d avoided their gaze coming into the store, of course, the signs
with bubble letters chirping their praises. Spring
is not yet here, but the tulips are,
hatched from some cozy hothouse stateside.
You are the kind of person who avoids the cherries
peddled prematurely in a market banking on your ignorance.
You do not visit the Rose Garden in December,
hopeful of a harvest. You are suspicious of the terminally
unripe avocados erupting like Vesuvius down the center aisle.
You stick to timelines, to patience, to the limits of the season.

But where has that gotten you? When you are honest with yourself –
pricking and piercing your industrious innocence –
you see the rug has slipped out from underneath, taking your feet with it,
those tree-trunk certainties of your feebleness. When will you stop
believing happiness will be retrieved only after a blistering trial
of error? You are the instrument, the causeway,
the tunnel, the hand, the song
slicing through that air. You do not need a miracle to see that light.

Something is calling to you. Tulips, and whatever will come after.
It takes just 10 steps of your time to cross the store.
It takes a religious conversion of the most plebian proportions.
An empty vase rests on the top of your refrigerator, waiting.
This is no impotent vessel bridging you to freedom.
This is what will make beauty happen in your own kitchen,
when you come up the stairs after the day has spit you out,
when you have become lost in the woods of your own making,
this is what will greet you:
Yellow and stem and glass and the lifeblood of water.
You are certain of this now, with that clutch of ripe color
in your hands. You are certain this is the moment your heart will break
of its malnourishment and you will lift your fists out of the mud.
You are certain because the door slides open and your body
is already leaning into the breeze
as if it could carry the whole weight of you,
as if it already is.

11 comments:

Dale said...

:-)

Grand poem. Be it so!

Shannon said...

love. this. so. much. {inspired & flowery love to you}

Chi Sherman said...

Outfuckingstanding.

Christina Rosalie said...

I can hardly stand the beauty of this poem. Thank you, thank you for filling my morning up.

noonce said...

breathtaking...heartbreaking...hopeful...miraculous...

lisa field-elliot said...

oh yes.

Diana said...

This poem made me cry. I know that feeling, the promise those tulips represent. I know that the feeling comes from seeing my mother garden when I was very young. It comes from my need for what comes next. What I don't know is how you put all of what I feel into words. Thanks.

Gillian said...

wow. love this.

margie said...

just love this.

jennifer h. said...

this poem has crawled inside my heart. i will not forget it ~ thank you.

Jaime said...

I love how you capture those seemingly ordinary moments of life and make them absolutely exquisite.
In your beautiful world, nothing is ordinary. And your words...oh, your words.