Daffodils

By Alicia Ostriker b. 1937 Alicia Ostriker

for David Lehman

Ten thousand saw I at a glance
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
—William Wordsworth

Going to hell so many times tears it
Which explains poetry.
—Jack Spicer

The day the war against Iraq begins
I’m photographing the yellow daffodils
With their outstretched arms and ruffled cups
Blowing in the wind of Jesus Green

Edging the lush grassy moving river
Along with the swans and ducks
Under a soft March Cambridge sky
Embellishing the earth like a hand

Starting to illustrate a children’s book
Where people in light clothes come out
To play, to frisk and run about
With their lovers, friends, animals, and children

As down every stony back road of history
They’ve always done in the peaceful springs
—Which in a sense is also hell because
The daffodils do look as if they dance

And make some of us in the park want to dance
And breathe deeply and I know that
Being able to eat and incorporate beauty like this
I am privileged and by that token can

Taste pain, roll it on my tongue, it’s good
The cruel wars are good the stupidity is good,
The primates hiding in their caves are very good,
They do their best, which explains poetry.

What explains poetry is that life is hard
But better than the alternatives,
The no and the nothing. Look at this light
And color, a splash of brilliant yellow

Punctuating an emerald text, white swans
And mottled brown ducks floating quietly along
Whole and alive, like an untorn language
That lacks nothing, that excludes

Nothing. Period. Don’t you think
It is our business to defend it
Even the day our masters start a war?
To defend the day we see the daffodils?

"Daffodils" from No Heaven, by Alicia Suskin Ostriker, © 2005. All rights are controlled by the University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, PA 15260. Used by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press.

Source: No Heaven (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005)

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Poet Alicia Ostriker b. 1937

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Subjects War & Conflict, Social Commentaries

 Alicia  Ostriker

Biography

Poet, critic, and activist Alicia Ostriker was born in 1937 in New York City. She earned degrees from Brandeis and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Twice a finalist for the National Book Award, Ostriker has published numerous volumes of poetry, including The Book of Seventy (2009), which received the Jewish National Book Award. Other books of poetry include No Heaven (2005); The Volcano Sequence (2002); Little Space (1998), . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT War & Conflict, Social Commentaries

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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