Essays« return to essay index

Glass Flowers On Dena Kahan's Glass Garden paintings

See Glass Garden paintings

     1

Alchemical vessels
imbued with rumours of colour –
a pearly acorn-brown,
tinctures of amber, buff-white:

the Trickster, light,
mixing it up, sheathing
each sculpted bloom in  
the glow of other objects;

even the innermost
whorl, the nectary,
endowed with   
moody brilliance.

     2

It cannot do harm:
fill them with pure water
then from a glass straw

sip the essence
of these flawless ghost-flowers
given body by breath.

As each goblet empties,
a volatile perfection
is restored;

ethereal dabs
and baubles gleam,
unrefracted.  

     3

Or, ply a window box of them
with graduated heights of water,
take a silver baton
and start the music:

a choir of glass flowers
voicing songs of
rootless transcendence.

Wind-chimes under the ocean.

     4

A time-lapse camera
would show these flowers
in violent metamorphosis:

tarry with darkness,
slicked by ivory moonlight,
dawn’s lava-red –

always in transit, becoming...
always, even when knifed by sun glare,
sealed, silent.

     5

Seeded in fire,
amaryllis, iris, orchid –

sleek-skinned botanical studies  

as vacant as living flowers are lush,
as brittle as living flowers are yielding.

Hothouse simulcra,
they lean towards windows
  
blank with rain; 
bronze with day's last embers.

     6

In art’s parallel universe
a flower can tilt up from a bench top

and grow from it –
eerily resplendent;

return the beholder's gaze 
with silken candour.  

     7

Each unfurled bloom,
each bud, enshrines
a Janus-truth:

sepals, curlicues
of varnished air
wear and witness

flux, never-ending
illusion; stay in thrall
to stillness.

And the long stems
seemingly
lit from within –

they too know the touch
of sky-shine, the quixotic
life of clouds.
                          
Let’s call it
the provisional sublime.

     8

The exquisite can be so cold.

But these sprays,
their silvery leaf-wings poised,

express a sunflower-yearning: 
rearing up, opening out,

as is the way of plant life
and of human desire –

so outright;
heroic, in a way

and, in the end, unanswerable.

     9

Stillness invites space.

Museums are built around
such dreamed embodiments
   of the life we find here,
   of the life that finds us.

The glass flowers
offer themselves –
enigmatic
constructions of hope.

They have survived 
a seismic century.

Petals shaped like tongues,
like flames, radiate
from chambers of translucent
nothingness.