In Mexico, people plant marigolds
in the graveyards, yellow and orange
like the tropical sunset. At twilight,
the flowers droop their heads, but
in the morning, new ones bloom.
In America, dwarf periwinkles
adorn funeral wreaths, then twine
around memorial urns and headstones.
Their pale blue flowers in summer
recall freshness of spring now gone.
In England, people plant pansies
on the graves of women for concern,
compassion, and tender attachment.
The association is old as Shakespeare:
"There's pansies, that's for thoughts."
In France, the poppies called
Flanders Field bow their red heads
over the graves of soldiers. They
symbolize peace and eternal rest
for those who have passed on.
The flowers we sow in cemeteries
are signs of devotion. They remind us
that life, however brief, is beautiful;
and that every destruction holds
within it the seeds of creation.
* * *
Grave flowers include all the ones mentioned in this poem, along with others.
Pansies appear in Shakespeare: the wild Johnny-jump-ups rather than the larger garden variety.