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TULIPS
by A.E. Stallings

These tulips make me want to paint
Something about the way they drop
Their petals on the tabletop
And do not wilt so much as faint,

Something about their burnt-out hearts,
Something about their pallid stems
Wearing decay like diadems,
Parading finishes like starts,

Something about the way they twist
As if to catch the last applause,
And drink the moment through long straws,
And how, tomorrow, they’ll be missed.

The way they’re somehow getting clearer,
The tulips make me want to see 
The tulips make the other me
(The backwards one who’s in the mirror,

The one who can’t tell left from right),
Glance now over the wrong shoulder
To watch them get a little older
And give themselves up to the light.

SOURCE: “Tulips” appears in A.E. Stallings collection Olives (TriQuarterly Books, 2012), available at Amazon.com.

IMAGE: “Tulips” by Heather Swan. Prints available at fineartamerica.com.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: A. E. (Alicia) Stallings studied classics in Athens, Georgia and has lived since 1999 in Athens, Greece. She has published three books of poetry, Archaic Smile (1999) — winner of the Richard Wilbur Award – Hapax (2000), and Olives (2012). Her new verse translation of Lucretius (in rhyming fourteeners!), The Nature of Things, is published by Penguin Classics. She is the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the MacArthur Foundation. She lives with her husband, John Psaropoulos, editor of the Athens News, and their small argonaut, Jason.