Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose (Sargent)
What had they caught? As if those Japanese lanterns glowing
pink and teal were full of fireflies or glow worms.
The girls’ black boots and stockings tread on the uncut grasses
and wildflowers and fortuitous lilies.
They stir with sticks, as if whirling fireflies to generate light,
a small buzz of protest ricochets against the paper prison.
Just two girls amid the profusion of fires and flowers,
their four feet, four hands, in white butterfly casings.
A girl myself, I stared long at this painting, trying to gather
its meaning, the mystery of its technology, the alluring toy they had.
Now, if a Sargent, I’d prefer a grande dame, monumental, frontal,
but here are his ladies in the making, making the light
lighting up their faces, heads tilted down, absorbed, not yet inclined
to let their faces take on the painter’s paint.
And very far away, on a Japanese bay, a thousand lanterns rattle,
the celebration unknown in England, where girls toy with souvenirs
hoping to coax fire from paper, heedless of lilies and carnations,
while their black boots stamp down the garden grasses and blooms,
and the white arms of the girls clasp whole globes, spinning out the light.
by Susan de Sola, first published in Ambit.
Guest Editor’s Note: The rhythms here are an intoxicating blend of iambs and occasional cretics with delicate alliteration and assonance throughout. It might not bring down the house as a performance piece but as spoken words the experience is mesmerizing.
Please welcome Guest Editor Earl Gray from March 20-March 24, 2017.