Crushed Poppies – July 22 2020

Crushed Poppies – July 22 2020

To see a World in a Grain of Sand

And a Heaven in a Wild Flower, 

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand 

And Eternity in an hour.

William Blake, from Auguries of Innocence


One day a few years back, I took a friend’s headshot photo. They wanted “something outdoors, with an out of focus background.” We went into the backyard and pulled some lights out there. Had to go into the shadow of the next door garage. Early afternoon sun so strong, so high, shadows shallow. I had him stand just on the edge of the flower bed. There wasn’t much there. Just some small, grassy-looking things.


We started shooting. His mother was holding a flag for my lens, but there was this one shadow on his neck… Hey, let’s have Adele come out and hold the bounce board. What fun that will be. Adele, her friend (and mine), our friend’s son (the subject) and me. A family affair.


The day before, Adele came in from the backyard so happy. Oh, my new poppies are coming up, she said. You’re going to just love them. We’re going to have waves of orange in the yard soon.


Do you know that California poppies, before they bloom, can look like innocuous, not terribly interesting grasses?


We had crushed the poppies. Mindlessly. Unthinkingly. Adele cried. The crushing of the poppies, it turns out, was the perfect metaphor for other things happening in her life at the moment. 


We got the head shots. I felt bad. Adele wept. Then she wrote a poem about it. She’d been writing a poem every day, Project 365 she called it. This was a particularly good one, the one about crushed flowers and crushed hopes. 


To make poetry out of crushed poppies – is this what it means to be human? Or what it means to be artistic? Whatever it is, it’s beautiful.


To see the poetry of the crushed poppies – this is the Vedic world view. To see the absolute beauty in all things at all times. And if we can’t see it in a given moment, at least to know that it’s there, somewhere. That we will be able to see it at some point. That whatever is happening, it always is evolution. That even dead flowers are part of evolution:

a heart weeps tears that need to be wept. A poet writes it down. The poet’s friend gets to comfort her and promise her new poppies. The poet’s partner has an opportunity to be humbled, and the opportunity to appreciate poetry and poppies in a way he perhaps never has before.


Every Night and every Morn

Some to Misery are Born.

Every Morn and every Night

Some are Born to sweet delight.

Some are Born to sweet delight, 

Some are Born to Endless Night.

William Blake, from Auguries of Innocence

California Poppies, Antelope Valley, CA