Lines to Accompany Flowers for Eve

who took heroin, then sleeping pills, and who lies in a New York hospital

The florist was told, cyclamen or azalea;
White in either case, for you are pale
As they are, "blooming early and profusely"
Though the azalea grows in sandier soil,
Needing less care; while cyclamen's fleshy tubers
Are adored, yes, rooted out by some.
One flourishes in aridness, while the other
Feeds the love which devours.

But what has flung you here for salvaging
From a city's dereliction, this New York?
A world against whose finger-and-breath-marked windows
These weak flares may be set.
Our only bulwark is the frailest cover:
Lovers touch from terror of being alone.
The urban surface: tough and granular,
Poor ground for the affections to take root.

Left to our own devices, we devise
Such curious deaths, comas, or mutilations!
You may buy peace, white, in sugary tincture,
No way of knowing its strength, or your own,
Until you lie quite still, your perfect limbs
In meditation: the spirit rouses, flutters
Like a handkerchief at a cell window, signaling,
Self-amazed, its willingness to endure.

The thing to cling to is the sense of expectation.
Who knows what may occur in the next breath?
In the pallor of another morning we neither
Anticipated nor wanted! Eve, waken to flowers
Unforeseen, from someone you don't even know.
Azalea or cyclamen ... we live in wonder,
Blaze in a cycle of passion and apprehension
Though once we lay and waited for a death.

by Carolyn Kizer

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