Christ’s Flower

I was recently enjoying a conversation with my soon-to-be daughter-in-law about wedding flowers and the traditions of which. We admired various Pinterest pics of bouquets and simple arrangements, each with a pop of colour and delicacy. God’s pretty creative. In searching out something for this week’s post, I was perusing through Easter poems and came across this one. It isn’t really “Easter-themed”, but I thought it was beautiful nonetheless. Also, because I love all things vintage, the imagery of a young girl stitching by lamplight appealed to me. Christ’s flower. Carnation? Read it twice. It will have you musing as it did I. There were big copyright warnings attached here, so I will include them in hopes not to anger the writers/publishers or whatever.

Supernatural Love


My father at the dictionary-stand   

Touches the page to fully understand   

The lamplit answer, tilting in his hand

His slowly scanning magnifying lens,   

A blurry, glistening circle he suspends

Above the word “Carnation.” Then he bends

So near his eyes are magnified and blurred,   

One finger on the miniature word,   

As if he touched a single key and heard

A distant, plucked, infinitesimal string,   

“The obligation due to every thing   

That’s smaller than the universe.” I bring

My sewing needle close enough that I

Can watch my father through the needle’s eye,   

As through a lens ground for a butterfly

Who peers down flower-hallways toward a room   

Shadowed and fathomed as this study’s gloom   

Where, as a scholar bends above a tomb

To read what’s buried there, he bends to pore   

Over the Latin blossom. I am four,   

I spill my pins and needles on the floor

Trying to stitch “Beloved” X by X.

My dangerous, bright needle’s point connects   

Myself illiterate to this perfect text

I cannot read. My father puzzles why   

It is my habit to identify

Carnations as “Christ’s flowers,” knowing I

Can give no explanation but “Because.”   

Word-roots blossom in speechless messages   

The way the thread behind my sampler does

Where following each X I awkward move

My needle through the word whose root is love.   

He reads, “A pink variety of Clove,

Carnatio, the Latin, meaning flesh.”   

As if the bud’s essential oils brush

Christ’s fragrance through the room, the iron-fresh

Odor carnations have floats up to me,   

A drifted, secret, bitter ecstasy,

The stems squeak in my scissors, Child, it’s me,

He turns the page to “Clove” and reads aloud:   

“The clove, a spice, dried from a flower-bud.”

Then twice, as if he hasn’t understood,   

He reads, “From French, for clou, meaning a nail.”

He gazes, motionless. “Meaning a nail.”   

The incarnation blossoms, flesh and nail,   

I twist my threads like stems into a knot   

And smooth “Beloved,” but my needle caught

Within the threads, Thy blood so dearly bought,

The needle strikes my finger to the bone.   

I lift my hand, it is myself I’ve sewn,   

The flesh laid bare, the threads of blood my own,   

I lift my hand in startled agony   

And call upon his name, “Daddy daddy”—

My father’s hand touches the injury   

As lightly as he touched the page before,   

Where incarnation bloomed from roots that bore   

The flowers I called Christ’s when I was four.   

Gjertrud Schnackenberg, “Supernatural Love” from Supernatural Love: Poems 1976-1992. Copyright © 1982, 1985 by Gjertrud Schnackenberg.  Used by permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC, All rights reserved. 

Caution: Users are warned that this work is protected under copyright laws and downloading is strictly prohibited.  The right to reproduce or transfer the work via any medium must be secured with Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC.

Source: Supernatural Love: Poems 1976-1992 (Farrar Straus and Giroux, 1993).

Gathered from Poetry Foundation

Good, eh? Do you see the reason it was listed under “Easter”? I hope you had a wonderful Easter week. I hope this poem also made you muse. Be blessed my beloveds.

1 thought on “Christ’s Flower

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