The Red Lilies
by Theodora Goss
This morning, the lilies are on fire,
I don’t know where such passion comes from,
unless maybe they’re in love with the light
falling on them through the windows:
a cold winter light, gray and blue,
in which the lilies are blazing.
Eventually, they’ll burn themselves out.
But meanwhile, I’m warming my hands by them,
which is a bit dangerous. If I get too close
and singe my fingers, and later people ask
what happened, I’ll have to explain
it was an accident, that I caught fire from the lilies
on my dining room table.
Every week, I buy myself flowers
at the market for three dollars a bunch:
Peruvian lilies, which are practical, they last so long,
especially if you remember to change the water.
But I never considered they could ignite,
even if only metaphorically.
Although people have died of metaphor.
Poetry is no safer than these lilies,
arranged in a green and gray pottery jar
on a lace doily crocheted by my grandmother.
Get too close, you will inevitably
start to burn.
(This painting is Vase with Red Gladioli by Vincent Van Gogh. It’s actually the closest I could come to red lilies . . .)