Saturday, May 7, 2011

TOUTING TULIPS

A bouquet of tulips arrived on my doorstep yesterday, a Mother’s Day offering from my youngest daughter, Elizabeth, who lives in California. The beautiful lavender, orange, and yellow blooms sit in a clear vase atop a buffet in the dining room, evoking a lot of reflection and sentiment about motherhood. The flowers also remind me of the beautiful tulip blooms I wrote about in FARDA, a book of poetry chronicling my stay in Iran, published in 2009. The poem, entitled “Khuzestan Color,” contained couplets about all the flowers I had seen growing in Iran during 1973-75, pre-Islamic Revolution.

Allusions to tulips are scattered throughout THE ROSE GARDEN, my favorite book of Persian literature that I brought home from Iran. THE ROSE GARDEN or GULESTAN (pronounced like Golestan) contains elegant Persian prose filled with aphorisms of wisdom and is said to include every major issue faced by mankind, one critic pronouncing that each word has 72 meanings. The book was written by Sa’Di, a lover of tulips who penned the lines:

“The rain in the beneficence of whose nature there is no flaw
Will cause tulips to grow in a garden and weeds in a bad soil…”

Written in 1254, THE GULESTAN has held its place as a best seller among volumes of mideastern poetry throughout the world. As I said, Sa’Di immortalized the tulip as it was indigenous to both Persia and Turkey and inspired the great Persian poet and philosopher.

Among the tulips in my bouquet are several variegated specimens which look as though small dark leaves are embossed on the bloom and which result from breeding selections from a genetic mutation. The patterns are lovely and illuminate Sa’Di’s line about “bright multi-colored tulips” contained in THE GULESTAN. A bit of trivia reveals that in the movie, “The Whole Nine Yards,” a character who is a killer was nicknamed “The Tulip” because he sent tulips to his victims’ funerals!

Thank you, Elizabeth, for sending the bouquet that evoked good memories of my daughters and of a better time in Persia when flowers and gardens were revered and Persian poets wrote such lines as: “If we are unaffected by the afflictions of others/we are not worthy to be called human (Sa’Di).”

The poem I wrote entitled, “Khuzestan Color,” includes a line about the tulips of southern Iran:

KHUZESTAN COLOR

Touching down on flat Iranian plain,
the aircraft enters another West Texas,

a stark landscape of stone and sand,
and the tune“Where did all the flowers go?”

replays in my mind…

But it is a fleeting thing,
this question about landscape,

as some weeks later, I have seen
Lale’, the wild tulip

growing spiritedly at Masjid-I-Suleiman,
blooms of beauty taken to Europe

during the Crusades,
and wild garlic with its red and green flowers

clustering in flower stalls, not vegetable bazaars.

Goats have stripped the stark plateau,
leaving only globe and artichoke thistle,

a few anemones and yellow daisies,
but they have bypassed the caper plant,

spicy night bloomer,
its large white flowers wilting in sunlight,

at night its pickled buds
enhancing salads at dinner parties.

Plants within our reach,
wild marigolds at Andimeshk near Choga Mish

and further into the Zagros Mountains
at Hamadan, Iran’s red poppy,

closer home, cultivated gardens
of Persian cyclamen

showing off its heart-shaped base.

In my own garden,
the yellow rose of Texas struggles,

is the household joke
that I was lured to Iran by a spouse

who sang at my arrival,
“I didn’t promise you a rose garden,”

then grew a neat row of yellow and pink blooms.

We do not neglect the almond and pistachio,
Or the tall Lombard poplars favoring Isfahan,

nor do we forget the poisonous oleander,
nemesis of Ahwaz gardeners

that gave me a case of hayfever
endemic to more tropical climes,

reminding me of home, Teche country...
the lushness enclosing.

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