The Crimson Cyclamen

(To the Memory of Charles Demuth)

White suffused with red
more rose than crimson
— all a color
the petals flare back
from the stooping craters
of those flowers
as from a wind rising —
And though the light
that enfolds and pierces
them discovers blues
and yellows there also —
and crimson's a dull word
beside such play —
yet the effect against
this winter where
they stand — is crimson —

It is miraculous
that flower should rise
by flower
alike in loveliness —
as though mirrors
of some perfection
could never be
too often shown —
silence holds them —
in that space. And
color has been construed
from emptiness
to waken there —
But the form came gradually.
The plant was there
before the flowers
as always — the leaves,
day by day changing. In
September when the first
pink pointed bud still
bowed below, all the leaves
heart-shaped
were already spread —
quirked and green
and stenciled with a paler
green
irregularly
across and round the edge —

Upon each leaf it is
a pattern more
of logic than a purpose
links each part to the rest,
an abstraction
playfully following
centripetal
devices, as of pure thought —
the edge tying by
convergent, crazy rays
with the center —
where that dips
cupping down to the
upright stem — the source
that has splayed out
fanwise and returns
upon itself in the design
thus decoratively —

Such are the leaves
freakish, of the air
as thought is, of roots
dark, complex from
subterranean revolutions
and rank odors
waiting for the moon —
The young leaves
coming among the rest
are more crisp
and deeply cupped
the edges rising first
impatient of the slower
stem — the older
level, the oldest
with the edge already
fallen a little backward —
the stem alone
holding the form
stiffly a while longer —

Under the leaf, the same
though the smooth green
is gone. Now the ribbed
design — if not
the purpose, is explained.
The stem's pink flanges,
strongly marked,
stand to the frail edge,
dividing, thinning
through the pink and downy
mesh — as the round stem
is pink also — cranking
to penciled lines
angularly deft
through all, to link together
the unnicked argument
to the last crinkled edge —
where the under and the over
meet and disappear
and the air alone begins
to go from them —
the conclusion left still
blunt, floating
if warped and quaintly flecked
whitened and streaked
resting
upon the tie of the stem —

But half hidden under them
such as they are
it begins that must
put thought to rest —

wakes in tinted beaks
still raising the head
and passion
is loosed —

its small lusts
addressed still to
the knees and to sleep —
abandoning argument

lifts
through the leaves
day by day
and one day opens!

The petals!
the petals undone
loosen all five and
swing up

The flower
flows to release —

Fast within a ring
where the compact
agencies
of conception

lie mathematically
ranged
round the
hair-like sting —

From such a pit
the color flows
over
a purple rim

upward to
the light! the light!
all around —
Five petals

as one
to flare, inverted
a full flower
each petal tortured

eccentrically
the while, warped edge
jostling
half-turned edge

side by side
until compact, tense
evenly stained
to the last fine edge

an ecstasy
from the empurpled ring
climbs up (though
firm there still)

each petal
by excess of tensions
in its own flesh
all rose —

rose red
standing until it
bends backward
upon the rest, above,

answering
ecstasy with excess
all together
acrobatically

not as if bound
(though still bound)
but upright
as if they hung

from above
to the streams
with which
they are veined and glow —
the frail fruit
by its frailty supreme
opening in the tense moment
to no bean
no completion
no root
no leaf and no stem
but color only and a form —

It is passion
earlier and later than thought
that rises above thought
at instant peril — peril
itself a flower
that lifts and draws it on —

Frailer than level thought
more convolute
rose red
highest
the soonest to wither
blacken
and fall upon itself
formless —

And the flowers
grow older and begin
to change, larger now
less tense, when at the full
relaxing, widening
the petals falling down
the color paling
through violaceous to
tinted white —

The structure of the petal
that was all red
beginning now to show
from a deep central vein
other finely scratched veins
dwindling to that edge
through which the light
more and more shows
fading through gradations
immeasurable to the eye —

The day rises and swifter
briefer
more frailly relaxed
than thought that still
holds good — the color
draws back while still
the flower grows
the rose of it nearly all lost
a darkness of dawning purple
paints a deeper afternoon —

The day passes
in a horizon of colors
all meeting
less severe in loveliness
the petals fallen now well back
till flower touches flower
all round
at the petal tips
merging into one flower —
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