Adele Ne Jame-lII
the violets are not withered
John Keats to his brother, George, May 3, 1819
You know how they trick us
with their ionones—short circuit
our senses so that we are
intoxicated one moment,
wonder at the loss the next–
only to have another wave of perfume
hit us again, that awakening
between breaths you know about,
queen of secrecy, like one fine word
made radiant by the silence around it.
In early spring, he said, they come
before the blooming rose;
in autumn they are fast-fading
and covered up in leaves.
We know about that too—and the umbrella trees
at his gravesite in Rome, the carpets of
wild violets you saw around carved stone
where stray cats sleep near the inscription.
Words like scattered violets,
unobtrusive like the clearest water,
like a fragrance, powdery, ethereal,
then only a memory to hold you
in the dark when burned stars
roll violently over a far hillside.
You know our best deeds
are performed in secret, written
on water, he said, as they must be,
the heart scattering its store freely—
one world after another
this elegy, this song of praising–
Everything you are and know and have
imagined commands you this moment
towards that glorious fast-fading,
when the strongest gust of wind
will swirl a pile of fallen
leaves madly into the open sky.