The Metal and the Flower

by P.K. Page

copyright ©P.K. Page, 2002

Intractable between them grows
a garden of barbed wire and roses.
Burning briars like flames devour
their too innocent attire.
Dare they meet, the blackened wire
tears the intervening air.

Trespassers have wandered through
texture of flesh and petals.
Dogs like arrows moved along
pathways that their noses knew.
While the two who laid it out
find the metal and the flower
fatal underfoot.

Black and white at midnight glows
this garden of barbed wire and roses.
Doused with darkness roses burn
coolly as a rainy moon:
beneath a rainy moon or none
silver the sheath on barb and thorn.

Change the garden, scale and plan;
wall it, make it annual.
There the briary flower grew.
There the brambled wire ran.
While they sleep the garden grows,
deepest wish annuls the will:
perfect still the wire and rose.

Notes on the Poem

Not only does "a garden of barbed wire and roses" deeply intrigue, but its startling juxtaposition of beauty and menace inspires striking interpretations. What new form does P.K. Page's poem "The Metal and the Flower" take when it is lifted from the pages of the 2003 Griffin Poetry Prize shortlisted collection Planet Earth: Poems Selected and New? Contemporary classical music composer Haralabos (Harry) Stafylakis set the poem to music, and then arranged for it to be performed for a tenor singer, accompanied by piano and accordion. The piece is a haunting, simultaneously arresting and jarring, and undeniably moving companion to the poem's text: The composer notes:
"This musical setting ... embraces both the graceful, calm tone of the poet’s scene and the cold violence of its constituent elements, highlighting the former in fluid song reminiscent of Romantic lieder and the latter with jagged rhythms and melodic contours drawn from popular (metal) songcraft."
Learn more here about how P.K. Page's poem inspired Stafylakis' award-winning rendition.

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