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A killing frost.


We are the last in this cold air
to walk in the garden.
Ozone strikes at every corner,
to sting, hissing
at the summers of once-were,
bleaching them zinc white,
until what was permanent--petals
thick with dye,
with the gum and honey
from bees-dies back to dirt.
Other perspectives
might have been different.
The apple tree, leaning,
flames grenadine. The beeches
look ochre. What is left of the oaks
is chinese orange, while
the butterfly weed, called
cadmium yellow, is actually
orange. Unperturbed
the helianthus remain marigold.
  These are flowers, believe me.
We know them by their impermanence
and a Herculean capacity to dye.
The cobalt platycodon grow
where the dog walked. Last year
myosotis stained the hills
forget-me-not blue. It was
a viridian Spring: Hemlocks rose
as though cypress, dyer's broom
bloomed among the acacia,
and no frost lapped
at the grass-green grass,
until rain changed the series,
pouring gray into the ground,
into the dove gray fields
for the months ahead: Numbers
1, 2, 3 and 4, each a grizzled
square of pearls on paper,
when out-of-doors, wear the bark
of ash trunks 200 years old.
Now the brief Prussian evening
is jet ink washing my lake pale
geraniums. In the lampblack
no one sees the batwings.
In the livid light they startle
no one with their weeping
that winter has set.
During this period, which
the radio calls seasonal,
many zinnias will die.
        Anne Babson Carter
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Author:Carter, Anne Babson
Publication:The Nation
Date:May 6, 1991
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