Monday, May 23, 2011

Keeper and The Night-Blooming Cereus

Right now, I'm reading Kathi Appelt's new book, Keeper. So far, I haven't been completely sucked in like I was when reading The Underneath, but I'm only halfway through, so we'll see. One thing that stands out, though, is the way Ms. Appelt is able to capture a palpable sense of waiting. I put the in italics because it is not just your ho-hum pass-the-time kind of waiting. The whole book is infused with heavy anticipation, a quiet but persistent feeling that any moment now, some small, magical shift is going to change everything.

The perfect symbol of this waiting is the night-blooming cereus. Keeper's neighbor, Mr. Beauchamp, has a night-blooming cereus. This is a plant that blooms rarely, and only at night. In Kathi Appelt's novel, Mr. Beauchamp is waiting, waiting, for the plant to flower on the night of the blue moon.

So here's the truth. This is all a rambling excuse to write once again about how much I love Robert Hayden. Everytime I pick up Keeper, I want to pull his Collected Poems off the shelf and thumb through to "The Night-Blooming Cereus," a beautiful example of waiting for something magical to happen in the everyday. 

It's long, so I can't post the whole thing here, but check out these first few stanzas and then you'll have to go grab the book from your library (because the last stanza is one of my favorite stanzas of all time). Or better yet, buy the'll want to have it handy for times like these. You may also be able to read the whole poem online at Google Books.

(Also, apologies to Mr. Hayden for the incorrect formatting. Blogger can't handle poetic indentations.)

The Night-Blooming Cereus (excerpt)
by Robert Hayden

And so for nights
we waited, hoping to see
the heavy bud
break into flower.

On its neck-like tube
hooking down from the edge
of the leaf-branch
nearly to the floor,

the bud packed
tight with its miracle swayed
stiffly on breaths
of air, moved

as though impelled
by stirrings within itself.
It repelled as much
as it fascinated me...

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