American Life in Poetry

Many of this column's readers have watched an amaryllis emerge from its hard bulb to flower. To me they seem unworldly, perhaps a little dangerous, like a wild bird you don't want to get too close to. Here Connie Wanek of Duluth, Minn., takes a close and playful look at an amaryllis that looks right back at her.

Amaryllis

A flower needs to be this size
to conceal the winter window,
and this color, the red
of a Fiat with the top down,
to impress us, dull as we've grown.

Months ago the gigantic onion of a bulb
half above the soil
stuck out its green tongue
and slowly, day by day,
the flower itself entered our world,

closed, like hands that captured a moth,
then open, as eyes open,
and the amaryllis, seeing us,
was somehow undiscouraged.
It stands before us now

as we eat our soup;
you pour a little of your drinking water
into its saucer, and a few crumbs
of fragrant earth fall
onto the tabletop.

Reprinted from 'Bonfire,' New Rivers Press, 1997, by permission of the author. Copyright 1997 by Connie Wanek. Her most recent book is 'Hartley Field,' from Holy Cow! Press, 2002. This column is supported by the Poetry Foundation, the Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

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