Long pods with bruise pink
and a smidgen of green
on each taut pasty skin.
They tell me of that silent process
in the body’s dark enclosure
when shape finds certainty,
of the newborn furless, still unlicked,
eyes sealed against the light.
In the kitchen’s warmth a bud parts
like a small bird’s beak.
Beyond sullen red I glimpse
the possibility of crimson and overnight
the flower flings itself open,
reveals a pale throat with specks
which could be spilt blood,
spots from childhood fevers
or spatters from a sunset. The stamens
stand erect as puma whiskers,
their sienna anthers in a close cluster.
I touch and a sweet predatory dust
descends, yellows my fingers.
Is it memory the excited flower
is trying to trap? – that invisible cocoon
from which each day we must persuade
the past to emerge and unfold its brightness
if we’re to be more than random flocks
of fleeting impressions, live
as coherent selves, inhabit imaginations.
For two weeks the lilies hold the kitchen
spellbound, then the petals stiffen
but I don’t tip the tall vase
into the bin outside the back door
until the water’s sweet animal stink
penetrates cupboards. The flowers
refuse to lie down, fix me
through glass with streaked faces.