She's back and in first bloom, as usual rather small, with those flower eyes
that are sort of blue. She's back, though winter might well return to inflict
more bruises, nips, or final snowfalls.
Here and there in the garden's dreary confines, she can see primroses
and grape hyacinth, who have been as eager as herself to thrust back up
out of the ground, and the daffodils with their moistly luminous, yellow
inflorescence. Everywhere else there is only garden rubbish, streaks of
mud, acrid swirls of water in which stems have not quite finished
rotting, and a sparse little jungle of abandoned dried-up tendrils. A
few birds are greedily gleaning the last of the previous year 's fallen
seeds. The air you breathe has a lingering desolate smell of distant
death, as though from bluish plums rotting in a tub whence an alcoholic
effluvium rises to be lost in the icy wind.
The violet has come early, but she wants to be sure that she can get her
regular seat at the show-in the balcony formed by a stone edging-and
also save places for her sisters-to-be
Her way of settling in is tuft by tuft. Long stolons, lying flat to the
ground, grow outward, mold themselves to any features of the terrain in
their path, and take root to produce distinct new individuals. These
shoots will go around an obstacle, take hold in front of it, or divide
off in different directions. Always at risk, they move along with quiet
determination, never stopping, toward some ideal destination, an unknown
place that may already be occupied by an alien flower. And when the
plant does come to a halt to take a firm, finely rooted foothold, no
doubt it's because some subtly informed impulse is telling her to, and
also because she is by temperament one part diviner, able to detect the
perfect spot. A spot where so far there is no one else and where she has
a chance of becoming what she is, an indiscreet discreet young female,
secretly and ardently sexual.
As she extends netwise, a process that seems to go on with no help from
her, the violet is exclusively concerned with producing her flowers.
Each of these will bloom singly, on a stem originating directly from the
root and not shared with other blossoms, while slender scapes separately
bear the ribbed oval leaves.
The floral architecture here is neat, sober, attractive, and free of
needless intricacies. It makes its statement mainly via the color to
which the flower has given her name and the fragrance she exudes, a
heady, penetrating scent, which, once inhaled, will be recognized again
wherever it may be wafted. Subtle but persistent, the odor serves to
convey her presence and availability. It stirs desire that is at first
unfocused, just a poignant, uncertain allure until finally the color is
perceived and an insect, its senses now fully aroused, is drawn
irresistibly into the charmed circle.
Surely these are not flowers but eyes. Frosty, fragile flower-eyes,
whose color was arrived at through a judicious mix of red and blue. It's
as though her inner self held a free, passionate balance between the
mind and the senses, between the tumult of love and a kind of proper
reserve. Or again, as though this hue were a rather aloof statement of
what has emerged after lengthy elaboration, after a private distilling
process in which every conflict has been resolved and the hidden mystery
of her subtle sensations has been acted out.
The eyes observe apparently unmoved; at any rate, if the images they
capture do stir up emotions, the eyes give no hint of this. Could the
violet be feeding her fantasies and her boldest dreams on the love
scenes she spies round about her?
A golden rose beetle ends his noisy low-altitude flight by diving
voluptuously into the folded petticoats of a rose. Blue argus
butterflies, happening upon one another as they flutter restlessly to
and fro, light upon a flower stem to couple. They turn to face away from
each other, only their rear parts welding them together, their wings
folded tight like two brush-strokes on the artist's canvas. A bumblebee
drone forces the fragile septum of a monkshood blossom. In another
corner, a swallowtail butterfly is busily sucking liquid up into a
distillery splashed with yellow. Does the violet reach a point where,
deep inside, she almost physically shares all this titillation she has
been watching? Unless, of course, she strictly limits her indiscretion
to a detailed enjoyment of the butterfly's magnificent color spectrum,
that patchwork wonder with a series of blue mirrors along the edge of
Orchid Among Violets
Something, call it a many-voiced passion, welling up from nowhere and
everywhere, burrows through bark, filters like fluid fire through
fibers, and sends blood coursing more keenly through veins. Within the
garden all is now vibrant, joyful, and impatient. Drunken buzzings, bees
writhing in the heart of moist corollas, assignations on the wing, fever
pitch on a microscopic scale. In this heightened atmosphere colors
deepen and fragrances become more intoxicating. Creatures burning with
desire seek their mate, give their all, drain their last drop of energy.
Spasm-punctuated dances are performed upon earth's naked grain or where
bodies interlaced trace shimmering characters in the air. During April
and May, the garden turns into a scene of mass copulation, a den of
debauchery, a ballet of lovemaking, whether swift or quite the opposite:
delicate, drawn out, and subtle. There are lovings that take place in
plain view, scorning to hide, and others that are clandestine, furtive,
wrapped about by shadows in whose secret care the matings seem at once
protected and protracted. And at nightfall pale gold messages, sent by
winking lantern semaphore, signal the presence of glowworms and
fireflies disposed to amorous embrace.
So the violet, looking on aristocratically, lives other people's loves.
She never seems aroused, or even aware that she, too, has visitors. The
result is that she neglects her own need to be fertilized. Her spring
blossoms will remain sterile. It amounts to gratuitous display, allure
for the sake of being alluring. The violet offers up her charms at no
profit. There she is, bestowing pleasures and sensations upon her
guests, but with no ulterior motive, never asking anything in return.
Perhaps she is totally absorbed in witnessing the daring dance displays
put on by others.
Throughout the spring, her leaves have been imperceptibly growing,
broadening, and drawing closer together till now they form a canopy of
green darkness, sheltered from inquisitive scrutiny. The violet shuts
herself privily away. Safe from prying eyes, she turns her attention to
the pleasure of a secret ritual, a refined ceremony of
self-fertilization involving delicate caresses behind closed doors.
Deep in shadow, during the first days of August, a second flowering
develops. This flowering is special and unusual, for its flowers never
bloom: they stay curved in bud. In the cloistered dressing rooms formed
by her leaves, the plant obeys an urge to turn circularly inward upon
herself, to forget everything and lead a more confined life free of
care. These flowers, it would seem, need no longer heed the laws and
morality, the tumult and conflict, of an outside world that will never
see them open. In strict privacy, the violet now appears to enjoy the
fullness of her deepest self, starting with the miracle of feeling alive
here and now. She wakens to a mysterious, exquisite, sensually
disturbing existence, in which, seemingly, thoughts no sooner form than
they evaporate in delicate, nervous tremolos.
Rapt in self-contemplation, she feels the stirring of her slender
organs. Tiny, tentative touches are given and received, slight
quiverings felt, thrusts and withdrawals as stamens move toward the
moist places of stigmas. Pollination is accomplished with no outward
parting of the petals. In the secrecy of the bud, in self-embrace, the
violet brings about the fertile fusion of her opposing parts.
From Love in the Garden by Jean Pierre Otte.
Translated from the French by Moishe Black and Marie Green.
© 2000 by George Braziller, Inc.
Used by permission of George Braziller, Inc.ean-Pierre Otte