The Pink Poppy

by Mark Doty

Mark Doty

opened in the night,
just one blossom, and when you step out into the new air it “takes your breath
as beauty is said to do: suddenly

you’re flaring, open
at the top of yourself as the petals are, loose, fringed at the edges, their

splotched a black already fading toward plum, fringe and flare wavering, in
the rain,

early storm
—four-part thunder...
That pink lip held up

while heaven turns
in on itself, rumbling—


But there—you aren’t supposed to talk about beauty, are you?


Poor Arden’s hiding under my desk; when the thunder comes he seems to
constrict himself, and then a few moments later he’s breathing heavily,

deaf as he is, holding himself taut in vigilance.
The poppy’s erect
and undulant in the rain;

a sort of terrestrial jellyfish, wavering blot like a shape on an old film, light
spot in the eye after something bright,

ragged central polyp of seed —dark nipple-colored anemone— held up like a
sexual display:

Blake: Exuberance is Beauty.


Grace catches you out like a hook, you’re pulled out of yourself, a moment,
and that’s the ache: peculiar blow, reminded you aren’t who you think you

To join oneself to this breathing pink chalice—

You want more than that?


A fire with a darkness in the center, rippling interstices of night and flame...

Incorporated in a radiant vitality:

you want more than that?

Dangerous, to hate the thing that brings you all of this: that flower wouldn’t
blaze if time didn’t burn,

my golden dog rusting now under the roof of the garden wouldn’t have been
either—no flecked ruffle of the jowl, inner lip pink and loose...

And Arden: old pink muzzle sniffing now at the rain.

Brief, but no one wishes it never

Theories of Beauty

1. Hook that pulls us out of time

2. or a lure to catch us in it

3. Rupture in the boundary
caused by delight, recognition of
what we aren’t, then suddenly are?

4. Longing solidified

5. Flaunts some flaw
evanescence, radical pink—
and owns that quality
so firmly it triumphs

6. Rilke: You, you only, exist.
We pass away, till at last,
our passing is so immense
that you arise: beautiful moment,
in all your suddenness...

7. The moment budded out of us?
Pink fist. Iron frill.
Essential frippery. Fierce embroidery.
Core decor. Severe extravagance.
Lip of otherness. Evidence.


It was the pink crown of hellfire, (if hell means traffic in time)

arisen out of the earth in spring;

the vernal breaking-out
of the underglow,

and you wanted to touch it,
to be instructed by those flames —cool and tempting—

and in a while, the rain bent the stem to the gravel.

The School of the Arts

Last updated December 21, 2022