It’s Queen Anne’s Lace season, which always brings to mind my favorite verbal convergence of food and sex: “Queen Anne’s Lace,” a poem by the famously philandering family doctor and truly great American modernist poet, William Carlos Williams.
Queen Anne’s Lace
Her body is not so white as
anemony petals nor so smooth—nor
so remote a thing. It is a field
of the wild carrot taking
the field by force; the grass
does not raise above it.
Here is no question of whiteness,
white as can be, with a purple mole
at the center of each flower.
Each flower is a hand’s span
of her whiteness. Wherever
his hand has lain there is
a tiny purple blemish. Each part
is a blossom under his touch
to which the fibres of her being
stem one by one, each to its end,
until the whole field is a
white desire, empty, a single stem,
a cluster, flower by flower,
a pious wish to whiteness gone over—
Mmm…. It’s an incredibly sexy poem.
On another note, is wild carrot edible? The skinny yellowish root, which smells like carrot, is edible, but is not to be confused with its poisonous impostor, Hemlock, the wild edible long associated in literature with murder and suicide, and about which another great poet, John Keats, wrote these well-known lines:
My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk [...].
The ecstatic, painful longing for the death Keats knew was fast coming–when he was 25–expressed in “Ode to a Nightingale” brings Thanatos together with Eros and the wild desire we have for the wild and the succor, sustenance, pleasure, or oblivion it may bring.
Photo credit. (Thank you.)