22: a conversation with Luke on the matter of lilies

my dialogue with Luke was a strange one
somewhat disconcerting.
It was at the coffee shop where he addressed
me with a cup in his hand, a book in the other,
about which, he said, he regretted

what he’d once written and now couldn’t take back
as it’s the nature and weakness of books,
as with photographs, he said,
to make errors permanent
but which? I asked,
and he said:
the thing about the lilies

I asked him about the lilies
I asked him about the nature of analogy
he said that the analogy was an honest
one but that he wanted to change
his mind about the lilies
how they do indeed work
hard, expending energy in their synthesis
he also explained how he had studied
over the verbs toil and spin
and the list he shuffled through in his thinking
not toil or spin but maybe walk, lift, cook,
change the oil, spread mulch,
lay, fret, divulge, lie
but that toil and spin made the final
rendition as he couldn’t make sense of walk
or spread mulch or lie

but I wasn’t, he said, thinking about cloth
or building walls and that, in any event,
he said, I’ve changed my mind but as it is with books
the editors will refuse to reprint my changes
because if the lilies go then what else?

But I’ve altered my thinking, he said, sipping
from the cup and stuffing the little book
in his pocket.  I said, it shouldn’t matter
what the lilies do; they’re doing quite fine
on my little plot.  I said, agreeing, when I do see them
I do indeed see them toiling and spinning,
especially the wasps about them
how I watch their little darting shadows
for hours as they cram for the following suns
and fear the coming of the phoebes for their
paperparcel’d children

Your problem, I said, is that we never
needed you to understand the lilies