Abundance

JOHN CIARDI

I

Once I had 1000 roses,
literally 1000 roses.
was working for a florist
back in the shambling thirties
when iced skids of 250 roses
sold for $2 at Faneuil Hall.
so for $B (at $I0 a week) I bought
1000 roses, 500
white and 500 red
for Connie’s wedding to steadiness.
I strewed the church aisle whole
and the bride came walking
m roses, roses all the way.
The white roses and the red roses.
White for the bed we had shared.
Red for the bed she went to
from the abundance in her
to the fear in what she wanted.
The gift was not in the roses
but in the abundance of the roses.
To
her whose abundance had never wholly
been mine, and could never be his,
He had no gilt of abundance in him
but only the penuries of sobriety.
A good steady clerk, most mortgageable,
returning in creaking shoes over
the while and the red roses. Returning
over the most llowering he would ever
touch, with the most flowering I
had ever touched. A least of endings.

II

This morning I passed a pushcart
heaped with white carnations
as high as if there had fallen all night
one of those thick-flaked, slow, windless,
wondering snows that leave
shakos on fence posts, polar bears
in the hedges, caves in the light,
and a childhood on every sill.
Once, twice a year, partially,
and once, twice a lifetime, perfectly,
that snow falls. In which I ran
like a young wolf in its blood
leaping to snap the flower-flakes
clean from the air: their instant on the tongue
flat and almost dusty and not enough
to be cold. But as I ran, face up,
mouth open, my cheeks burned
with tears and flower-melt,
and my lashes were fringed with gauze,
and my ears wore white piping.
There is no feast but energy. All men
know — have known and will remember
again and again — what food that is
for the running young wolf of the rare days
when shapes fall from the air
and may be had for the leaping.
Clean in the mouth of joy. Flat and dusty.
And how they are instantly nothing
but the idea of joy enacted in the profusion
of the falling of rare possibilities.

III

My father’s grave, the deepest cave I know,
was banked with snow and lilies.
We stuck the dead flowers
into the snowbanks dirty with sand
and trampled by diggers’ boots.
The flowers, stiff and unbeckoning,
ripped from their wires in the wind
and blew their seasons out as snow.
Purer than snow itself. A last
abundance correcting our poverties.
I remember the feasts of my life,
their every flowing. I remember
the wolf all men remember in his blood.
I remember the air become
a feast of flowers. And remember
his last flowers whitening winter
in an imitation of possibility,
while we hunched black
in the dirtied place inside possibility
where the prayers soiled him.
If ever there was a man of abundances
he lies there flowerless
at that dirty center
whose wired flowers try and try
to make the winter clean again in air.
And fail. And leave me raging
as the young wolf grown
from his day’s play in abundance
to the ravening of recollection.
Creaking to penury over the flower-strew.

IV

This morning I passed a pushcart
heaped beyond possibility,
as when the sun begins again
after that long snow and the earth
is moonscaped and wonderlanded
and humped and haloed in the
light it makes: an angel
on every garbage can, a god
in every tree, that childhood
on every sill. — At a corner of the ordinary.
O flower-begetting imagination
and shape-begetting air dazzled
in the wealth of light, I was again
the young wolf trembling in his blood
at the profusions heaped and haloed
in their instant next to the ordinary.
A feast of glimpses all men
know — have known and will remember.
And did not know myself what heaped me full
till I said your name.
At once my plenty came.
It is the words starve us. The air,
trembling with the white wicks
of its falling, encloses us. To be
perfect, I suppose, we must be brief.
The long thing is to remember
imperfectly, dirtying with gratitude
the grave of abundance. O flower-banked,
air-dazzling, and abundant woman,
though the young wolf is dead, all men
know — have known and must remember — You.