Flowers by the Sea

Flowers by the Sea

Flowers by the Sea

When over the flowery, sharp pasture’s
edge, unseen, the salt ocean

lifts its form—chicory and daisies
tied, released, seem hardly flowers alone

but color and the movement—or the shape
perhaps—of restlessness, whereas

the sea is circled and sways
peacefully upon its plantlike stem

–William Carlos Williams



This poem was one of Bella’s recent choices. I ask her to read aloud to me to practice that skill. She most often chooses to read poetry. She found this one in The Rattle Bag. We read and discussed it while sitting out on our new patio on a fine fall day. I think there is nothing finer than sharing beautiful poems with my daughter, seeing her delight in words.

The first unusual word choice that I noticed in this poem is “sharp.” It’s strange, that phrase, “the pasture’s sharp edge.” I don’t think of pastures as having edges so much as margins. Here I guess I see a cliff, a sudden drop to the ocean.

Then “chicory and daisies” almost seem to be an apposite for “form,” the punctuation and grammar hard to puzzle out. So that the flowers are somehow the waves of the ocean and vice versa, is Williams comparing the pasture to the ocean or vice versa? Blue chicory and white daisies, the very color of ocean waves and foam, I can see the waves melding into flowers.

Then that word “tied”. Intriguing. In what way are the chicory and daisies tied? And surely there’s a pun here and the word also evokes the image of the tide?

And what on earth can it mean that “the sea is circled and sways
peacefully upon its plantlike stem”?

This poem has still more mysteries to unlock. I think I’ll need to read and ponder for some time before it begins to reveal its depths to me. But I want to keep reading it.

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1 comment
  • For me, the ocean ‘swaying’ evokes a very large scale view of the tides, where the whole body of the ocean moves back and forth, creating high and low tides on opposite coasts with a surprisingly steady regularity. It’s not a scale that most of us are used to thinking on, but I think that’s part of the beauty of it.

    Thank you for sharing this!