I continue to work on the “Little Evening Lily” poems as summer comes to South Africa. The lily in question has disappeared from the hillsides, but other wild flowers have taken its place. Among them is Cyanella hyacinthoides, its purple petal cuffs and golden stamen gloves earning it the common name Lady’s Hands. They add specks of colour to the waysides which grow ever paler with dry wild grass.
Four separate poems are emerging from the “Little Evening Lily” sketch. They are variations on the same theme, born from the many stanza experiments whilst developing the composition.
It should come as no surprise that there is such an outpouring of verse on the subject—the lily in question, Gladiolus liliaceus, is my favourite flower1—but, I am nonetheless amazed.
I am also intimidated, as I wonder whether the four poems will be worthy of their subject, and frustrated, as this further delays the anthology’s completion (likely by four months, given my pace)2.
- If I might do a little introspection: I associate Gladiolus liliaceus with the joy of my mother in spring (September to November in my country, South Africa) when it appears in the wild. Moreover, it evokes the happiest time of my childhood at age eight and nine in the Babilonstoring Valley—of which I have written before in “This September”, “This October”, “This November” and “A Return to the Valley”—when I recall her displaying the lilies on the kitchen table of the little labourer’s cottage we inhabited at the time, its intoxicating fragrance filling the room at night.
- I typically spend a month on a poem.