First tulips

Before the lush lawns and fragrant

locusts, before lace-pinks

of dogwood and massed bloom

on azalea,

the tulips are mild flames

to close a cold season.

They open their candlewick centers to sun

and flare back until our own faces

seem kindled by light.

In one day the brightness

transforms the yard, as though their color

emits wavelengths of heat and sound

that flicker through senses.

In evening they close

like prayer plants -

a last warmth of embers

that still flower in the darkening.

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