Georgia O’Keeffe’s “Oriental Poppies”

Their gaudy dig­nity a para­dox,
their pri­vate cen­ters dark but half-exposed,
they open wan­tonly, not quite enclosed
by painted bor­ders. Roses, mums, or phlox
might be con­tained, but wild aban­don mocks
this frame: each petal sprawls, forth­rightly posed
with daz­zling pride, all mod­esty deposed
by blazes that unpinned their ruf­fled frocks.

Their scar­let fire and inky mys­tery
ignite the air around them, but reserve
a secret seed of mis­chief or mad sleep;
and pal­lid mor­tals eye them jeal­ously,
for Georgia’s pop­pies never lose their nerve
and always sow far more than we can reap.

Jean L. Kreiling’s poetry has appeared in sev­eral jour­nals, includ­ing Ekphra­sis, The Evans­ville Review, The Edge City Review, The For­mal­ist, The Lyric, Phoebe, and SLANT. Her work was awarded prizes in the 17th Inter­na­tional Poetry Com­pe­ti­tion (spon­sored by the World Order of Nar­ra­tive and For­mal­ist Poets, 2003), and was nom­i­nated for a Push­cart Prize in 2000.