Crepe Myrtles

for David Middleton
Their crinkled paper blossoms, set in goached
leaves as various as jade, are flowers for bonsai
trees, brocades, a watercolor, lacquered screens—
reminding us of silks, and jewels, and Oriental
gardens, which is where they came from, once,
along with Japanese magnolia, yew, and plum;
but I say they are laureled athletes who have run
here all the way from Greece, forsaking Daphne’s
sacred woods or races with Apollo in Olympian

groves, to join live oaks, azaleas, and magnolias
along Prytania Street; or are they wood nymphs,
garlanded for southern latitudes in wrinkled art
that cannot wilt, or goddesses, disguised among
the Greek Revival houses? On this August day,
the skies are pale with heatstroke, languishing;
a brassy, molten light seeps down. But the trees
seem fresh and lively, like a jogger at a stoplight,
flexing taut and muscled limbs, bearing sculpted

trophies—fuchsia, pink, magenta, purple, white,
or lavender—although the aging trunks are split
and cracked with bluish veins, like lesioned skin
or an old injury. Chasing bits of shade, I weave
along brick banquettes, pass P.J.’s coffee den,
the houses of the dead. Salty dew is beading on
my face; I take my hat off, just to fan my brow,
below a knotty sycamore, the sun-bleached,
its headdress trembling in the heat. All the scene

is shimmering, the hidden river and the shining
stones, as on Aegean shores. Light, the dazzling
light, will blind me as it burns beyond our truth.
I am shaded by the thought of Mnemosyne, her
daughters singing, laughing, measuring through
time, and dialogues within the cool and watered
glades, where words return to green, and dryads
listen in the trees, or dance, their sashes waving
and their music carrying to circumscribe the sea.

Catharine Savage Brosman
from her book Places in Mind
LSU Press, 2000

used with permission of the poet and by special arrangement with LSU Press

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