If there is one thing I have learned about poetry since beginning AO, it is that poems have a power to touch the soul in a way nothing else does. Poetry is like having music, art and great literature all wrapped together.
Zorro and I have been immensely enjoying the poems of Eugene Field. Each night we read three, leaving off one at the beginning and tacking a new one on at the end so every poem gets read three times. We have laughed over so many of these rollicking adventures in word play that I was utterly unprepared for Buttercup, Poppy,
For three nights I have read it, and for three nights I have struggled to control the rush of grief my children do not share and wait until I can remember in private. Remember his first days in the world, when he was so brave and bold and alert despite his impossibly small size. Remember the later weeks, when they increased his opiates to cover his pain, when his eyes were rarely opened and he no longer reacted. Remember my rising panic in his last days, when everyone had a story to tell about a child who lived and no one spoke of children who died, and my greatest fear was not that he would die, but that I would never be free to speak of him once he did.
I wonder how, a hundred years ago, a man named Eugene who was full of laughter and merriment managed to capture so poignantly the process of losing a child, the peace that comes from remembering the pain. Did he, too, lose a child? Did he have to hold a small body, see a tiny person wracked with pains that could only be relieved by drugs? Did he have to watch that spiral towards death, the spiral that seems to last forever and later seems to have been but a moment? Who was the child that inspired this poem? It seems to me that this poem could only have been written by someone who had lost a child. However it came to be, I know that next spring I will plant some new flowers around the small grave on the hill overlooking our pond. Buttercups, Poppies and Forget-Me-Nots.
Buttercup, Poppy, Forget-Me-Not
Buttercup, Poppy, Forget-me-not—
These three bloomed in a garden spot;
And once, all merry with song and play,
A little one heard three voices say:
“Shine and shadow, summer and spring,
O thou child with the tangled hair
And laughing eyes! we three shall bring
Each an offering passing fair.”
The little one did not understand,
But they bent and kissed the dimpled hand.
Buttercup gambolled all day long,
Sharing the little one’s mirth and song;
Then, stealing along on misty gleams,
Poppy came bearing the sweetest dreams.
Playing and dreaming—and that was all
Till once a sleeper would not awake:
Kissing the little face under the pall,
We thought of the words the third flower spake;
And we found betimes in a hallowed spot
The solace and peace of Forget-me-not.
Buttercup shareth the joy of day,
Glinting with gold the hours of play;
Bringeth the Poppy sweet repose,
When the hands would fold and the eyes would close;
And after it all—the play and the sleep
Of a little life—what cometh then?
To the hearts that ache and the eyes that weep
A new flower bringeth God’s peace again.
Each one serveth its tender lot—
Buttercup, Poppy, Forget-me-not.