Consider the tulip,
how it rises every spring
out of the same soil,
which is, of course,
not at all the same soil,
but new. How long ago
someone’s hands planted a bulb
and gave to this place
a living scrap of beauty.
Consider the six red petals,
the yellow at the center,
the soft green rubber of the stem,
how it bows to the world. How,
the longer we sit beside it,
the more we bow to it.
It is something like kindness,
is it not? The way someone plants
in you a bit of beauty—a kind word,
perhaps, or a touch, the gift
of their time or their smile.
And years later, in the soil that is you,
it emerges again, pushing aside
the dead leaves, insisting on beauty,
a celebration of the one who planted it,
the one who perceives it, and
the fertile place where it has grown.
It is still too early for tulips in the garden though I happily bring home bright bunches of cut stems from the grocery store (flowers being as important as food, especially in March). The poet asks us to consider how tulips rise from the soil where they were planted, how someone’s hands planted a bulb which became the gift of a living scrap of beauty; the miracle of seed to flower.
Whatever colour you may choose (mine are yellow at the moment, a bouquet of sunshine), we watch as their green stems gently bow, a graceful still life. She suggests that the more we contemplate these early blooms, the more we bow to it. You really can lose yourself in the close-up intensity of colour and intricacy of the flower’s whorls, pausing for a moment to pay attention, to pay homage.
The connection she makes is enchanting: It is something like kindness, / is it not? The way a kind word or touch or smile from someone plants / in you a bit of beauty. How the flower of that kindness emerges in you, insisting on beauty. You are the fertile soil where that beauty has been planted which recognizes the giver of the gift as well as you, the receiver. This is indeed a celebration, simple kindnesses we all exchange with one other. Let us insist on beauty.