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First tulips

Before the lush lawns and fragrant

locusts, before lace-pinks

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of dogwood and massed bloom

on azalea,

the tulips are mild flames

to close a cold season.

They open their candlewick centers to sun

and flare back until our own faces

seem kindled by light.

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In one day the brightness

transforms the yard, as though their color

emits wavelengths of heat and sound

that flicker through senses.

In evening they close

like prayer plants -

a last warmth of embers

that still flower in the darkening.

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