This Laurence Wieder poem was just published in the most recent edition of The Paris Review. Upon first read, my mind immediately connected the mention of “anemone” in the title to unlikely predatory invertebrates of the sea. As I sat with the words for longer, context clues describing decaying springtime made my ideas of marine life recede. This realization prompted my research into finding a form of anemone that exists on dry land. I found a flower.
Etymologically, “anemo” refers to wind and the suffix “-one” means daughter; taken together, the anemone flower translates to “the wind’s daughter.” Legend has it that when the gods took Adonis for their own, Aphrodite’s tears over his grave produced Anemone flowers. In ancient Greece, this wildflower came to represent two things—although dichotomous, they both both signify major change.
- The arrival of warm winds foreshadowing the beginning stages of spring.
- The painful loss of a loved one.
In “These Anemones, Their Song Is Made Up as They Float Along,” Wieder speaks directly to the pain and impact of death’s finality on the living by using spring and anemone flowers as allegorical framing. In June of 1954, nearly all elements of nature decided to turn their backs on the circadian clock of Mother Nature. Stolen sunlight, repressed blooms, silenced birds, and heavy grass do the work of creating lifelessness in this new version of the world. The final turn of the screw is that there is no form of hibernation available in this new place. Whoever left living is doomed to be awake, witnessing every moment and passing feeling, unable to avoid circling the drain.
When I get to the bottom of historical nuances like these woven into poems, I am suddenly struck with a whole new understanding underneath the surface of the words. All it takes is a little extra digging into questions that may seem trivial…nearly everything about artistic choice is intentional, so I implore taking action on impulses to find out more about what makes those choices multidimensional.