Tyler Meier’s “July” follows the Biblical advice to “consider the lilies, how they grow.” But Meier’s flowers do more than “neither toil nor spin”: they author the biography of summer, which, much as a “season’s persistence” leads to its passing, implies that the month’s life story is already ending. Can two lilies convey it? This lesson in brevity authorizes the poet to see “everything / I’ve ever loved” in light of a new script, or, rather, in light of “the always-light” that “keeps pressing down / on all of us.” This light is massive, monumental, prophetic, a publisher to which it would be dizzying to submit, and so the poet, with the desolate tenderness of Kunitz or Clare, turns to flies and mountains and the moon for counsel. What does the fly tell us? Something you can repeat to the moon. What does the mountain say? That against the hard labors of lilies, you must face the the flaming party favors of an ancient hell. “Welcome home,” says its fire, as though, despite everything you’d like to claim or insure, this is your home address and hearth.
I love this poem for not stopping there. “The bottom of the sea is cruel,” writes Hart Crane. For Meier, the bottom may be a place, amid a season of blossoms and fire, “to see / the bottom.” And to see it look back at you; what feels like cruelty may be clarity’s initial sting and spur. Are you what you believed? Do poets care too much about flowers? I don’t think flowers think so, and the rhapsodic bursts of steely, ruminative tenderness in Meier’s “July” suggest an ethics of recognition with implications that exceed the garden. “Sometimes you have to go down / to the bottom,” and sometimes you come up again, but sometimes, this poem suggests, maybe you can live there, see more, love further. Maybe we already do.