Les Très Riches Heures de Florida

By Debora Greger b. 1949 Debora Greger

At three p.m.
under sky coming to harm
something too red flashes from a limb,

so red it hurts:
against sky coming apart,
against a left-out, twice-soaked shirt,

a cardinal
inflames the profane cathedral
of suburban yard its owner let fall

into disgrace.
How rain embarrasses
the half-pruned hedge. The half-mown grass

that sports a tonsure
in reverse shines under the torture.
Rain slicks with praise red shed, red feather.

Crested seedeater
out of character where
you’re neither the strictly monkish brown thrasher

nor the odd hermit thrush,   
you scratch in the underbrush
of faith to see what you can flush:

a grub. A seed.   
Eminence not grise
but rouge, from your lipsticked beak

you pass a sowbug
to your mate. You peck at a slug   
sliming your path, seeming to beg

your forgiveness.
To what would you confess
beyond season-to-season unfaithfulness?


There are more divine hours:   
a gold-leafed page a mower
rows with a scythe as tall as the tower

that tents aloft   
a tiny sky bereft
of cloud, a chapel ceiling left

unstarred, heaven
a lake turned upside down,
filled with an emptiness that’s clean

because it’s cold,   
glacial enough to scald
the skin it bathed, the lungs it filled.

On devotion’s last page,   
deep in the golden age
of illumination, the hunt’s cortège

has halted at the edge
of the known world, a clearing wedged   
in a forest of spears. Red bird the badge

on the huntsman’s tunic,
you’re the splash of crimson lake,   
the distant lordship’s flag, the cleric

dog’s bright collar,
its heretic tongue. It slavers
on the bleeding stag. Snarling at prayer

that chases belief,
it licks the offal of grief,
the heart cast aside reward enough.

Debora Greger, “Les Tres Riches Heures de Florida” from Off-Season at the Edge of the World. Copyright © 1994 by Debora Greger. Used with the permission of the author and the University of Illinois Press.

Source: Off-Season at the Edge of the World: Poems (1994)

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Poet Debora Greger b. 1949

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

Subjects Nature, Religion, Landscapes & Pastorals, Christianity, Animals

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

 Debora  Greger


Poet and artist Debora Greger earned her BA from the University of Washington and her MFA from the University of Iowa. She has published numerous books of poetry, including Men, Women, and Ghosts (2008), and her work has been included in issues of Best American Poetry. As a reviewer for Publishers Weekly observed, Greger “rarely rejoices, though she can surely console; her pruned-back, autumnal sensibility and her balanced lines . . .

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SUBJECT Nature, Religion, Landscapes & Pastorals, Christianity, Animals

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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