Passionflowers by Joyce Compton Brown

Blue Passionflower
Passiflora Incarnata 3 by Helen Lowe Metzman. CC license.


Mollypops, we called them, stomping
with our small shoes,
heaving them like baseballs,
bursting them green
against the barn wall.
We were children, seeking
to destroy, as children do,
leaving the juice-encased seeds
to rot, perhaps reseed the pasture’s edge.

Now I watch them in the garden.
They droop egg-like,
ripen toward yellow,
draping palmate leaves
like mittened hands
sheltering blossom and fruit.
How frail the flowers perched
atop the leaves,
a few still blooming purple!

Passiflora incarnate,
naked as Botticelli’s Chloris
in her flimsy veil.
Style and stigma, anthers
invite golden bee
to drape itself in pollen
to crawl toward ovary
atop stiff androgynophore,
feathery corona, bed of filament,
petals, sepals, open to joy.

Their green and yellow pods
wrinkle in the light.
Scent drifts across my desk.
I breath sweetness and sun—
Surely Keats’s Porphyro
would have strung them
round, on St. Agnes Eve,
placed flower and fruit on soft
pillows to awaken virgin dreams.

No wonder the elders
imposed pain and suffering,
reshaping the floral message,
every delicate part transformed
into blood and cross,
betrayal and guilt—denying
the joy of pure and sensual splendor,
creation and fruition
which surges still

Joyce Compton Brown
Joyce Compton Brown grew up in the rural community of Troutman, N.C., in a family with deep local roots. A professor for a number of years, she is the author of Bequest (Finishing Line), Singing with Jarred Edges (Main St. Rag), Standing on the Outcrop (RedHawk) and, most recently, Hard-Packed Clay (RedHawk, 2022).

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