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A Lost Page from Thoreau's Walden

found by Terry Heller

     Consider these marigolds, carried hither no doubt by some celestial visitor. On such an October day as this, when warm sun and mild air draw me to the doorstep, I can observe almost their entire life cycle, nipped though they be by last week's frost.

     Underneath, where the frost has not reached, are their beginnings, the tiny leaves and translucent lobed buds. Small, they are reddish as if blushing to be seen in their newness. Further up, the buds turn gold as the undersides of the forming petals show through. Then, they are like lips, tightly closed, preparing to whistle, like a poet wandering and dreaming on the forest path, his head in the leaves. It is no surprise that next we see these mouths uttering leaves, or petals rather, a siren song calling to bee and moth: "Hurry please! Hurry please! Night comes apace!"

     Another level higher we find the open blooms, each petal its own gold fringed, blood and rust tongue thrust forth from purse of its lips, each exuding the fragrant essence that invites commerce. I blush to say what intercourse I see here. Bee and moth, like the behemoth trojan horse, Greeks bearing gifts, descend from their zephyrs and discourse most eloquently. Be he bee or be he moth, each sips at the sweet tap in exchange for a little gold.

     We have only to glance a little higher to see the consequences of such congress. But before we moralize on the transgressions of marred golden youth, we should look past their apparent fall, even higher to the fully dried buds, now pods.

     These indeed are the feet of the marigolds, though drooping in today's breeze at the frost-blackened tops of my stray plants, as if blasted by a disapproving deity. How strayed they here, but by these same pods? When opened, these reveal so many infantry, packed tight at attention, smelling somewhat stale perhaps in such proximity, yet still with grappling hooks at ready to scale some mousing cat or nutting squirrel. Then they will board yet another great beast to be borne off to some other fertile doorway, seeking in a far field their majority.

     You say this life is mean, plagued by commerce, the air abuzz with deceit. Yet even out of these is broadcast the news of immortality. Dirt and death--these form only the soil and roots. Accident and animality--these only the stem and leaves. Reaching out from these, far up at the heaven-extended top, are the pregnant pods, dreaming of another life.

Copyright 2001 by Terry Heller
Originally published in Coe Quarto #1, 1994.