You Bring Yellow Tulips
James Schuyler, master of azalea,
rose and hyacinth, wrote an elegy
for Frank O’Hara, who stopped breathing
the blues on the New York City afternoon
Lady Day whispered her last note
Michael Cunnigham wrote a novel
about Virginia Woolf after her suicide in Sussex
where three grey sparrows held court
on a branch of Field Maple
and a green-brown bomber
shot across a rain-streaked English sky.
Mark Doty wrote a poem
about Michael Cunningham
writing on Virginia Woolf and the Bleecker Street
flower shop where Mrs. Dalloway, but not the real
Mrs. Dalloway, said she would buy the flowers herself.
Meryl Streep in sunglasses
walking down a Manhattan street
through what appears to be
snow, arms heavy with forsythia,
hydrangea and roses, enters a tumble-down
building, looks out a window where glass should be.
A decrepit elevator takes her up
through the graffitied core of a warehouse.
The rattling gate opens onto a dying-from-AIDS
poet, she steps into his loft apartment, seems to be
holding her breath while simultaneously talking, as only
Meryl Streep can. She places the flowers
in two vases—blue hydrangeas in one,
yellow roses in the other, and picks trash
off the kitchen floor.
You bring yellow tulips
when you come for dinner. Yellow tulips
in January! I say. You also bring Mâcon-Villages,
your crazy down-east accent and I pretend
not to see bruising, blotches like blue-white flowers
on your chin and cheek, how you struggle
to swallow your night time antiretroviral
with a gulp from your glass
of red wine.
In the movie, Mrs. Dalloway
is in love with the dying poet.
She misses her youth, longs for
that first kiss, the promise
of a single perfect day. Now this
slow and confusing death, the poet’s suicide
tumble from a flung open window—sadly
beautiful with its gently-falling-snow effects.
Bessie, Billie—enough of the blues,
sad as a marigold’s stench, you say. Let’s watch
that movie again, the one with red roses
in every unhappy vase. Where Meryl melts
down in the end, with a single mauve orchid
on the window ledge, reaching
like Lady Liberty, for the moon
or is it Mars? up there
among satellites, stars like cinquefoil—
silver-blue flowers, étincellant.
Jim Nason is the author of the novels The Housekeeping Journals (Turnstone, 2007) and I Thought I Would Be Happy (Tightrope, 2013), as well as a short story collection, The Girl on the Escalator (Tightrope, 2011). Jim’s poems, essays and stories have been published in literary journals across the United States and Canada, including The Best Canadian Poetry in English 2008, 2010 & 2014. He has been a finalist for the CBC Literary Award in both the fiction and poetry categories. Jim recently finished a new short story collection, Damned if You Do; his third novel, The Spirit of a Hundred Thousand Dead Animals; and, his fifth poetry collection, Touch Anywhere to Begin. Jim teaches fiction at George Brown College and is the new owner and publisher of Tightrope Books.