“…Earth laughs in flowers to see her boastful boys
Who steer the plough but cannot steer their feet clear of the grave….”
—-Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Hamatreya”.

Just outside my door, a little to the left,
beside the bottom step, I thought I heard
a crocus chuckle from a frost-heaved cleft.

A week or somewhat after that occurred
there was a laugh of daffodils along the pebbly walk.
Later, toting garden tools in my red wagon

how could I ignore those titterings of tulips,
giggling gladioli, snickering snapdragons and
a high-toned tee-hee from a blooming hollyhock?

Was this the earth laughing in flowers to remind
the maker of a private plotting once again
what ultimately is in charge, and what is not?

I shrugged and went indoors, only to find
not peace, not silence, but
the kalanchoe cachinnating in its pot.

Cognac and Emerson, before I went to bed,
made me this dream, from what Ralph Waldo said.

62 responses »

    • I like that….what you composed there, Bruce, thank you! (I was going to say “what you penned,” but you youngsters probably don’t use a pen anymore.) Now I’m thinking…hmm..maybe even some Alan Watts, and Southern Comfort……

        • I think Thoreau (do you know the authentic New England pronunciation of his name?) would indeed be more peaceful than Emerson. Voltaire would get one’s dander up. Watts would just say don’t worry, be happy. I’m wondering if Southern Comfort is readily available in your southern hemisphere; you have to be careful, there is the cordial variety (70 proof) and the wham bam (100 proof). Though both are smooth and sweet and warming, going down, I imagine the stronger is an excellent soporific.

          • Southern Comfort is available in the antipodes, but I’m not sure of the percentage. I can’t drink spirits any more. Some people lose their sight, some their hearing, some their taste or smell. I have lost the ability to drink spirits without it killing me. Is there purgatory on earth or what?

            • So many things do become killers to us as time encroaches….I know it well. Obviously, I must enjoy spirits quite sparingly, now. This poem hints at that. Now…whether or not to give up reading certain authors….

              • I’m currently having a Bronte binge. I haven’t read them for over 40 years – except for “Wuthering H’s” regularly. And now I have to see an optician… Cause and effect?

    • With your expertise around flowers, their customs, their language, their risibilities—especially the exotic ones—as well as your consummate grasp of English synonyms, I would certainly expect you to jump into the pool here. As usual, you do not disappoint!

      • Dear Cynthia, I don’t deserve such credit. As soon as I hit the dreaded SEND button, I realized that chives are not normally considered a flower. In any case, not exact in the same league as roses! Yet an onion inflorescence is truly beautiful, and as one who collects his own onion seed, I am aware of this.

        Alliteration, yes I can do that. But getting my alliums and typical flowers straight–not so much. I wonder if Emerson had the same problem… You, on the other hand, have not commingled laughing hyenas, let’s say, with smiling salvias. That’s why you’re the poet.

        • Some years ago, when I was still physically able to do gardening, I fell in love with alliums—-from the tiny purple flowers atop chives (which easily gussied-up any platter of salad on a buffet) to some really gigantic specimens. I still have the “skeleton” of an allium (8″ in diameter) that I dried five or six years ago. It looks like something from outer space, very delicate and brittle. In my book, alliums certainly are flowers, and beautiful.

          • Perhaps we could start the Allium Fanciers of America Club. Naturally, you would be president. I’ll be treasurer, as this position is ideal for anyone who has a marked affinity for embezzlement, tax fraud, or general corruption. And then we could investigate humanitarian issues. I propose “Médecins Sans Oignons” as our flagship organization. Again, I’ll be treasurer. Your intimate knowledge of Esperanto will be crucial as you travel the world (dark limousines, 5 star hotels, epicurean meals, et cetera), spreading the word about the gayness of garlic and the chicanery of chives. Only the falterings of misplaced doubt can stop us. I’ll be sending you the documents shortly. One little signature and you can relax, ensconced on your favorite (Faustian) futon.

            • I like how you think. I will leave those pesky money matters to you. Meanwhile I will brush up on my Esperanto and rescue my best calligraphy nibs from where they have so long lain unemployed and practice my miniscules and majuscules once again to see if I can still draw a beautiful line. I am eager to design a logo for our club and it must be graceful and calligraphic… there anything more graceful and calligraphic than a garlic scape?

              • “Is there anything more graceful and calligrahic than a garlic scape?”

                Yes, but wouldn’t a dollar sign seem a little crass? And since Christopher Lee passed away this week I think garlic might be going out of style (the shortfall in sales emanating from movie studio prop departments alone could kill the Allium industry ).

                • Ah, yes, Sir Christopher—RIP—that gorgeous voice. Even though Dracula was a fictional character, and Christopher Lee only acted him, we both know the IDEA of Dracula still lives. Besides, the number of foodies who watch cookery shows on cable TV is growing fast, and almost every recipe begins with a mirepoix, including onions, garlic, or both. The market is still good!

                • But “Médecins Sans Mirepoix” is something to consider, from a branding perspective. Once we have the name, we can worry about the meaning and the actual nuts and bolts of the thing. Besides, philanthropy is best served up with a little ambiguity. But as president of the outfit, you will be able to iron out the kinks, so to speak.

                  A nice poem about jovial flowers and look where we have drifted (Dracula, post-apocalyptic philanthropy–I could go on)!

  1. Enjoyed this one. Flowers are grave reminders, indeed, of what ultimately is in charge and what is not…My lilac has just finished his blooms, now brown.

  2. I’m glad that spring is bringing you so much joy this year. Your poetry seems to get better and better – it is evocative and marvelous! I especially loved this one for its lighthearted alliteration and shear pleasure in the exuberance of nature. I join you, and the flowers, in your happiness.

    • Hi Jane…I’m really happy to have you visit; I’ve missed you. And thank you for the nice things you’ve said about the poem. It’s true that spring has been especially joyous this year, after such a hard winter. I hope you haven’t been adversely affected by all the crazy weather in Texas that I have been hearing about in the news. I’ll bet your own garden is really lovely by this time.

    • Yes…a traditional red wagon, a Radio Flyer…we have traveled far together and carried many a load. We’re both a bit rusty and noisy now, but hanging in there! Thanks, MoSY.

  3. Oh what a wonderful dream! And what a wonderful fun poem too. I’ve always loved this particular quote.

    Not being an alcohol drinker anymore, I’m wondering what cocoa and Mary Oliver might produce. 😊

  4. the imagery! I picture now how, when arrayed on one’s casket, one wonders if even then there are smiles happening. Truly the way things are headed, it will be earth herself which has the last, long, and triumphant chuckle. What a wonderful set of stanzas. Such a gift….

    • Ha ha…you’ve got me chuckling about the funeral spray of blooms on the casket. My Dad was an undertaker and we lived upstairs from the funeral home. Lying in bed at night, I could smell the flowers in the parlors downstairs. But there was usually more weeping and wailing than laughing in the sounds. I think you are right about the last laugh, and who has it…. Thank you, Lance.

  5. And what a dream indeed! I will never walk past flowers again… I will have to dance (well, in my mind!).
    I wonder, if we collect enough, could we create a symphonic sound in harmony with the harmonics of the Earth? Then the Earth would be laughing in uproariously uplifting movements as each flower grows to its own crescendo, hunting for its full potential!
    Ah, I can talk nonsense!
    A delightful poem Cynthia – beautiful imagery – to read over and over again (as I do all your poetry!).

    • But your idea mustn’t be nonsense, Rob. Since ancient times, philosophers have pondered the idea of a Musica Universalis—the Music of the Spheres. Maybe our own Sphere, the earth, does laugh at us though, as Emerson says, it does it with flowers in order to give us some joy, even if only temporary. I always like your musical pondering…and thank you for being such a constant, and encouraging reader.

      • Thanks Cynthia – very kind! I have learnt to take myself and my ‘ponderings’ with a pinch of salt, as it were, over the years! Yes, nonsense is a bit strong isn’t it? There is always an element of some truth in all our ideas and thoughts – isn’t that just what makes creation such a marvelous place!?
        Thank you for sharing your careful and skilful use of the language – always such a pleasure and an education! 🙂
        Wishing you a great weekend!

    • Hello Natalie—I have been thinking of you. With all the earth bursting into bloom I suspect these days are not easy ones. I usually prefer the climate to reflect my mood; then it seems somehow there is a condolence in nature. But maybe it is possible that a season of meteorological clemency helps to boost that dead land feeling. I surely hope so. August will mark five years away from devastating loss, for me, but when the memories flood, it’s as if it were yesterday. Take care, my friend. Thanks for coming by to read and comment. It means a great deal to me.

  6. Your snickering snapdragons made me remember: I used to take my boys often to the natural history museum. On the way is a bed of snapdragons. I would stop and make the dragons talk with my children, who were enchanted.

  7. Many itch for spring and the things springs bring, such as flowers. But, nature has its own timing … so we must not rush until we hear the laughs of the flowers. Cheers to your cognac.

  8. A satisfyingly creepy poem, Cynthia. That chachinnating kalanchoe put me in mind of Browning’s creaking cricket, but creepier, because I quite like crickets, but I don’t like the sound of kalanchoes – I haven’t seen one, and now I’m not sure I want to.

    • Thank you for that “creepy”, it’s what I was going for! The phrase “earth laughs in flowers” is most often quoted out of context to indicate something simple and lovely, which has annoyed me when I’ve encountered it used that way. The Kalanchoe is one of those houseplants that seems to survive, no matter how much you neglect it. It’s not particularly impressive, having very small red blooms, but I think people keep it around because it just doesn’t die! I know all this because someone brought me a kalanchoe when I was hospitalized four years ago and it has survived moving house, drought, overwatering and every other bad thing you can do to a plant. I guess it is kind of creepy…

  9. You got me curious and I did after all look up the kalanchoe. As you say, not particularly impressive – about on a level with spray carnations in wow factor – though far surpassing them in longevity by the sounds of it. I had never heard of the expression ‘earth laughs in flowers’, but now if I hear it, it will have these spooky undertones.

    • Most websites that quote “Earth laughs in flowers” give those words in isolation, without the rest of the line and the following line, which together give a very different meaning to the statement. Unfortunately that’s often what happens when something gets taken out of context.

      • I’ve had the same experience encountering that phrase out of context…which was what set me onto writing this post…..Thank you, Steve, for your visit and your comment!

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