from The Spring Flowers Own: “This unfinished business of my / childhood”

By Etel Adnan b. 1925 Etel Adnan
This unfinished business of my
this emerald lake
from my journey’s other
haunts hierarchies of heavens

a palm forest
fell overnight
to make room for an unwanted
ever since
fevers and swellings
turn me into a river

the streets were steep
winds were running ahead
of ships . . .

There was indeed the death of birds
the moon had passed away.


The morning after his death
pursuing him beyond his bitter end
his mother came to
his grave:
she removed his bones out of
their pattern
                                and ditched them into mud:
women came at night
and claimed Rimbaud their own

that night there was much
thunder      it was awesome


Laurels and lilacs
bloom around my head
because I stood up to the sun

You see     the Colorado River runs
between flowered banks
I repeat my journeys to seek the
happiness that overcame
your absence
I was happy not to love you anymore
until the sunset reached
the East
and broke my raft apart
there were other rivers underground
covered with dead flowers
it was cold it was cold yes it was


Under a combination of pain
and machine-gun fire
flowers disappeared
they are in the same
state of non-being
as Emily Dickinson

We the dead have conversation
in our gardens
about our lack of


The gardener is planting
blue and white
some angel moved in with me
to flee the cold
temperature on earth are
but we wear upon us some
immovable frost
everyone carries his dying as
a growing shadow.


I left the morning paper
by the coffee cup
the heat was 85 like the
and I went to the window to find
that flowers had bloomed overnight
to replace the bodies
felled in the war

the enemy had come with fire
and ruse
to stamp the names of the dead
in the gardens of Yohmor
It is not because spring
is too beautiful
that we’ll not write what
happens in the dark.


A butterfly came to die
between two stones
at the foot of the Mountain
the mountain shed shadows
over it
to cover the secret of


Etel Adnan, from “The Spring Flowers Own" from The Spring Flowers Own & The Manifestations of the Voyage. Copyright © 1990 by Etel Adnan. Reprinted by permission of Post-Apollo Press.

Source: The Spring Flowers Own & The Manifestations of the Voyage (The Post-Apollo Press, 1990)

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Poet Etel Adnan b. 1925

Subjects Living, Death, Nature

Poetic Terms Free Verse


Poet, essayist, and painter Etel Adnan was born in Beirut, Lebanon. The daughter of a Greek Christian mother and a Syrian Muslim father, she spoke both Greek and Arabic with her parents, but French became her primary language upon enrolling in a French Lebanese Catholic school at the age of five. While working for the French Information Bureau, she attended at the Ecole Supérieure de Lettres de Beyrouth, where she composed her . . .

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SUBJECT Living, Death, Nature

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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