Glass Flowers
On Dena Kahan’s Glass Garden paintings

A poem by Diane Fahey


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.


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, 


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.


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.


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.


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.  


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 
lit from within –

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


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.


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 –
constructions of hope.

They have survived  
a seismic century.

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