Poetry

Poetry Sunday: 'Tangerine Orchids,' by Rachel Hadas

Tangerine Orchids These flowers unlock a heart I hadn’t known was locked; mend what I didn’t know was broken. That much was broken I did know. But me? I hadn’t dreamed, as some of my friends had, of bombs and masked intruders, doomed flailings at escape. I had not seen the double horror happen over and over. I’d simply tried to live a little. Not “closure,” not “moving on.” Where was there to move to? October light, the river, and my city: Staying, not moving, seemed to be the theme. But then if staying means a holding on to what is gone, there is no staying either. Each time I pass them, faces pull at me and I am no exception. Multiply my little pain by millions—there it is, the wound, mine too, but would I had ignored until these foxy flowers opened it. Brought into view, the wound began to bleed. What we can see, we mourn for, and rejoice that we can mourn. Not mourn and then rejoice; mourn and rejoice at once. Care Tips, the glossy sheet accompanying these orchids, advises: “Trim ½ inch or more from each spray and submerge entire stem, blossoms and all, in fresh room temperature water.” Have I been cut? These flowers are bathing me in water not much warmer than room temperature and salt, not fresh. But tears, however salt, are sweet. In Homer they all know that. Dickens in a newly published letter writes: The cultivation of little gardens, if they be no bigger than graves, is a great resource and a great reward. These tangerine orchids are a resource. The city is a garden and grave.   Originally published in Poetry After 9/11: An Anthology of New York Poets, edited by Dennis Loy Johnson and Valerie Merians (Melville House).   hadas-book-cover_questions-in-the-vestibule_8-28-16 Rachel Hadas is the author of more than a dozen books of poetry, essays, and translations. Her most recent poetry collection is Questions in the Vestibule (Northwestern University Press 2016), available here . She is at work on verse translations of Euripides’ two Iphigenia plays, also for Northwestern, and she and husband Shalom Gorewitz have been playing with marrying poetry and video. Hadas is Board of Governors Professor of English at Rutgers-Newark, where she has taught for many years.

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  • Patricia Yarberry Allen, M.D. September 11, 2016 at 5:57 pm

    I shared this poem at lunch today with a group of New Yorkers who were here going about our morning business on that day fifteen years ago when the world became different for us…all at once.
    Thank you so much for choosing this perfect poem that really describes how we all feel
    “The city is a garden and grave.”
    So beautifully expressed.
    We send you and Ms. Hadas our thanks.
    Pat Allen

    Reply
  • Patricia Yarberry Allen, M.D. September 11, 2016 at 5:57 pm

    I shared this poem at lunch today with a group of New Yorkers who were here going about our morning business on that day fifteen years ago when the world became different for us…all at once.

    Thank you so much for choosing this perfect poem that really describes how we all feel

    “The city is a garden and grave.”

    So beautifully expressed.

    We send you and Ms. Hadas our thanks.

    Pat Allen

    Reply