Iris

Poem By James Phillip McAuley

Not how you would be thought of, your color
Being grey, silky, like a second skin, your hair
Flecked with it. Now, hearing your way of saying
Iridescent while I read your poem, three years
After your death, I am compelled to check
You out in Ovid, Lamprière, Bulfin, then
A book of flowers, where I discover you
On marshy ground, not grey exactly—in fact
A pretty blue-grey, a quiet type, with a green cowl
To shelter the thoughtful inclined head.

Not at all the bright-winged messenger
Who’d drown the world if Juno put you up to it,
But a quiet sylph, who could color her message
With a sly tilt of the head, those grey eyes steady,
Lips pursed, making a pretence of kissing.

You could supply so many ambiguities—
Gradations and streaks and tones of grey and blue—
That for twenty years I saw your story told
Where the sky lay on the wintry hills, weighed down
With tears Mnemosyne allows for you:
Flower, messenger, poet.

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