Lines to Accompany Flowers for Eve

By Carolyn Kizer 1925–2014 Carolyn Kizer

who took heroin, then sleeping pills, and who lies in a New York hospital

The florist was told, cyclamen or azalea;   
White in either case, for you are pale
As they are, “blooming early and profusely”
Though the azalea grows in sandier soil,   
Needing less care; while cyclamen’s fleshy tubers   
Are adored, yes, rooted out by some.   
One flourishes in aridness, while the other   
Feeds the love which devours.

But what has flung you here for salvaging   
From a city’s dereliction, this New York?
A world against whose finger-and-breath-marked windows   
These weak flares may be set.
Our only bulwark is the frailest cover:   
Lovers touch from terror of being alone.   
The urban surface: tough and granular,   
Poor ground for the affections to take root.

Left to our own devices, we devise
Such curious deaths, comas, or mutilations!   
You may buy peace, white, in sugary tincture,   
No way of knowing its strength, or your own,   
Until you lie quite still, your perfect limbs   
In meditation: the spirit rouses, flutters
Like a handkerchief at a cell window, signaling,   
Self-amazed, its willingness to endure.

The thing to cling to is the sense of expectation.   
Who knows what may occur in the next breath?   
In the pallor of another morning we neither   
Anticipated nor wanted! Eve, waken to flowers   
Unforeseen, from someone you don’t even know.   
Azalea or cyclamen ... we live in wonder,
Blaze in a cycle of passion and apprehension   
Though once we lay and waited for a death.

Carolyn Kizer, “Lines to Accompany Flowers for Eve” from Cool, Calm, and Collected: Poems 1960-2000. Copyright © 2001 by Carolyn Kizer. Reprinted with the permission of Copper Canyon Press, P. O. Box 271, Port Townsend, WA 98368-0271,

Source: Cool Calm and Collected: Poems 1960-2000 (Copper Canyon Press, 2001)

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Poet Carolyn Kizer 1925–2014

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

Subjects Health & Illness, Living

Occasions Get Well & Recovery

Poetic Terms Blank Verse

 Carolyn  Kizer


Poet, essayist, and translator Carolyn Kizer was born in 1925 in Spokane, Washington. Raised by a prominent lawyer and highly educated mother, Kizer’s childhood was suffused with poetry. Of her development as a poet, she noted to the Poetry Society of America: “My parents were both romantics: father favored the poems of Keats; mother went for Whitman. No evening of my childhood passed without my being read to. But I think my . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Health & Illness, Living

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

Poetic Terms Blank Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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