The Sadness Everywhere Present

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I'm over at The Paris Review (Big up Lorin Stein) talking poetry. Specifically I'm talking Jennifer Grotz's incredible poem, "Poppies." Here's a taste:


The poppies are wild, they are only beautiful and tall 
so long as you do not cut them, 
they are like the feral cat who purrs and rubs against your leg 
but will scratch you if you touch back. 
Love is letting the world be half-tamed. 
That's how the rain comes, softly and attentively, then 

with unstoppable force. If you 
stare upwards as it falls, you will see 
they are falling sparks that light nothing only because 
the ground interrupts them. You can hear the way they'd burn, 
the smoldering sound they make falling into the grass. 

Poppies was originally published by the effete, latte sipping, wine-track, coastal elite, pinko, Prius-driving libruls at the The New England Review. OK, so I added some superlatives. 

Moving on, yesterday, on twitter, someone hipped to the association between poppies, World War I and death. Here's John McCrae's "In Flanders Fields" which (like a lot of things) I'd never had the pleasure of reading:

In Flanders fields, the poppies blow 
Between the crosses, row on row, 
That mark our place and in the sky 
The larks, still bravely singing, fly 
Scarce heard amid the guns below. 

We are the dead, short days ago, 
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, 
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie 
In Flanders fields! 

Take up our quarrel with the foe: 
To you from failing hands, we throw 
The torch; be yours to hold it high. 
If ye break faith with us who die 
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow 
In Flanders fields!
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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