Sunday, May 25, 2014

Camas Lily

Camas Lily, Camassia Quamash, Wikipedia

We will not speak yet of calamus,
nor of the death camas, white
and lovely. We might glance
at quamash, which is what
the Nez Perce called the root:
but our business today is the lily.

You may have seen that blue before.
The skin of a split plum, aside
from the red gash where the wasps
jack slowly in ecstasy, will show
just that eyeshadow blue:
the well-used lips of a woman
of a certain age, falling 
contentedly asleep
may show the same. It is a blue
towards which neither lake 
nor sky aspires. Deeper than those:
the color of a bruise.

It flowers in the season
of resurrection, like a true lily.
The camas, however, is never true:
it is oblique, slanting across 
page and meadow,
an italic asterisk of spring: it says
there is more, more than you know.

You don't harvest its roots in spring,
but you visit its fields when it is in flower,
which is when it is easy to spot 
the white death camas in among the blue,
and weed them out. (But we are not going
to speak of the death camas yet.)
And if you are Nez Perce, Cree,
or Salish, you will return in Fall,
to dig and pit-roast, or boil.

But if you are, like the wasps,
a late-comer, and a feeder on
fruits that were not meant for you,
you will wander bewildered
in violet blue fields that shimmer
and are crossed and crissed
with the violent green of swallows;
you will wonder what all this bounty means,
knowing only that it is not meant for you.

Fields of seablush and camas lily,
fields we knew when the world was young.


Jarrett said...


Lucy said...