Autumn Sky Poetry . . . Number 20 . . .

Percy Bysshe Shelley's Ode to the Zephyr Flower

     by Deborah H. Doolittle


O Wind-Flower, what but the breath of wind

by whose unseen presence your seeds are borne

has driven you to this unlikely garden

on the Arno? Freckled, two-toned, you adorn

the bank of this river like no other flower

of this earth—violets or daisies—being sky-born.

With no honey and little scent, your power

of attraction lies elsewhere: among those dappled things—

magpies, trout, cows, clouds in the sky—your

star-like qualities vibrate most and sing

(bedazzled, bejeweled, and ready to dream).

Let my words repeat them—an echoing.


Wild one, your vision of beauty blazes

like truth, with each slip of a breeze or strong

head wind. Who else could deserve such praises?

In the crofter’s hedge, you’re a paragon,

a prototype, an ideal model of that

fleeting, heady moment of perfection

witnessed at the river’s edge. To grow fat

and scattered across the meadow by day

is to make the ultimate habitat

fit for both man and beast. I like the way

you open up each petal to the sun

and turn to face it as it speeds away.

Dear friend, if I could I would count myself

among those inspired by your west wind:

to be fruitful, to multiply, would be my strength.

No mere buttercup to hold to my chin,

no punctual ranunculus in another’s

plot of land. Your inspiration is genuine,

not superficial like the fleur-de-lis to stir

other men’s patriotic zeal.  My impulse

is to treat your offerings as treasure

at once both nebulous and mysterious.

Should my own endeavors spread and endure,

here and there, likewise, and be that ubiquitous.


Deborah H. Doolittle teaches at Coastal Carolina Community College in Jacksonville, North Carolina. Her last two chapbooks, No Crazy Notions and That Echo, won the Mary Belle Campbell and Longleaf Press Awards, respectively. Other recent work may be seen in Avocet, Bellowing Ark, Gingko Tree Review, North American Review, Plainsongs, Plainspoke, RHINO: The Poetry Forum, and Taproot Literary Review. She is married and sharing living space with six cats and a yard full of birds.


© 2011 Deborah H. Doolittle