It has been a very long time since I’ve read this poem that I love, Red Lilies, by Richard Speakes. When I got out the old December 1994 edition of Poetry and reread it, I thought I’d share the beauty…
by Richard Speakes
For Joan Didion
We tame with explanations any red, provide
meanings into which we dive, the human
foxhole where the mind finds protection.
It’s fabulous out there, and one clump
of red lilies beside the house could be
the bullet that rips through the body of
all those connotations, our symbols,
the stories that make sense of our world.
Red Riding Hood and Christ’s wounds, mother’s
and the color the sun must be as one’s death
gives sunset its purpose, its passion at closure.
And then, rising, the moon punctuates the sentence
one’s life made, its last word that somehow rhymes
with all the words preceding, love and work
and sex. One’s death is by nature that moment,
all the meanings folded into the bundle
one carries, tied to a stick of bone,
as one goes forth into eternity.
That exquisite nonsense is the world
the mind makes from the world it didn’t,
with words that are themselves blossoms
of the invisible, the world as we see it.
As a side note, it’s interesting to think that I read this, and loved it, long before I knew of Richard Speakes and Joan Didion. I was in high school at the time, fancying myself a writer, and here I am today, fifteen years later, having gotten cozy with Didion’s writing last semester, and still loving that poem.