Honoring the Masters: Sugar Mule’s Via Walt Whitman: a 21st Century Gathering

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The Apostrophe Blog

Musings on Writing and Life.

In Summer 2011, Sugar Mule published one of my poems in their ongoing project called Via Walt Whitman: a 21st Century Gathering. It is an ode with one of those (hopefully necessary) long explanatory titles: “Ode to the Past & Present Wilt of the Daisy, Bellis perennis, Pressed in The Illustrated Leaves of Grass, a June 1973 Graduation Gift from L.” This poem later appeared in my chapbook, Eternity a Coal’s Throw, published by Burning River Press.

Ode to the Past & Present Wilt of the Daisy, Bellis perennis, Pressed in The Illustrated Leaves of Grass, a June 1973 Graduation Gift from L.

Thirty-eight years between verso and recto and only today I found your white-ray confetti,
day’s ease, dazey, flattened above a skinny-bent stem.

Native of meadow, field, dump, I remember walking home after studying at L.’s
and that patch, white like a constellation fallen across the rubble
that plugged the abandoned Babylon Mine.
L. whose father died when we were ten and her mother slow-dying of cancer so L. worked after school in the Frye Boot factory across the river
to help pay the radiation bills.


Chaucer christened you “eye of the day”—half-crazy
for the love of you, daisy, the way your head closes at night
and rainy days but forever returns, open, reassurance at dawn.

Your every petal’s a flower and in your center flowers, too.
You wilt all the others in the vase like Sophia Loren striding into the Oscars.
Daisy, I still see you now: multitudes!

We were flower children in training too young to hitch to Woodstock
so we buried our bras in that corner of Appalachia,
tromped our own Yasgur’s Farm midnights up the power lines
for more gathering—mad, naked summer night
pot parties beside what would be “Chelsea Morning” fields of you,
daisy, essence of innocence—
Oh, we were far past that.
L. had already balled (as we called it then) Joey Cunningham,
seven years her senior, an ex-con-cum-drug-dealer.
While I had Bob, too-many-to-tick-mark afternoons parking in the shadow
of the slag heap up Vine Street—amazing the ways you can tangle two
bodies, warm honey compost in the front seat of a Willys Jeep.

Speed the decades since we daisy-chained that necklace stem
to stem to stem and donned, instead, our serious shoes.
Like you, my circadian marguerite, I’ve endured—
the parade of nights, one more dreaming girl who forgot
we live the Riddle of the Sphinx.
Snatched by the roots, every bunch of hopeful is withering soon.

Once plucked, you had to be sacrificed, too.
He loves me, he loves me not, he loves me, he loves me
knots to tie off any prayer of blossoming
look in my face while I snuff the sidle of evening

Nancy Flynn
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