Mark Doty, Elegies, and Sunflowers

Happy Friday! And welcome to your intermittent dose of Mark Doty.

This poem, from Atlantis (1995), is gorgeous and wonderfully simple. Yet its simplicity belies a deeper suggestion, which is related to the rhetorical questions posed within. (These sorts of interrogatives are a staple of Doty’s poetic gaze, I’m learning.)

A couple of quick thoughts, before the poem itself: these lines make me crave summer. These lines give me permission to be tired of elegy, which seems to have been my mode of being lately.

Finally, how strange, as I type this, the song “Elegia” by New Order, begins playing on my iTunes.

In the Community Garden

It’s almost over now,
late summer’s accomplishment,
and I can stand face to face

with this music,
eye to seed paved-eye
with the sunflower’s architecture:

such muscular leaves,
the think stem’s surge.
Though some are still

shiningly confident,
others can barely
hold their heads up;

their great leaves wrap the stalks
like lowered shields. This one
shrugs its shoulders;

this one’s in a rush
to be nothing but form.
Even at their zenith,

you could see beneath the gold
the end they’d come to.
So what’s the use of elegy?

If their work
is this skyrocket passage
through the world,

is it mine to lament them?
Do you think they’d want
to bloom forever?

It’s the trajectory they desire—
believe me, they do
desire, you could say that they are

one intent, finally,
to be this leaping
green, this bronze haze

bending down. How could they stand
apart from themselves
and regret their passing,

when they are a field
of lifting and bowing faces,
faces ringed in flames?