“… the red poppy often meant imagination and eternal sleep, but also pleasure . . . ‘The rose and poppy are her flowers; for where/Is he not found, O Lilith, whom shed scent/And soft-shed kisses and soft sleep shall snare?’”
Allison Meier writes in Hyperallergic about the hide-in-plain-sight secret language of flowers, as the prim Victorian loaded the bouquet with va-va-voom blooms, to do the talking for him or her.
Or, as the young, wild, mocking Istvan once observed amongst the quality:
“Sometimes the alderman’s wives enclose flowers with their billet-doux, rosemary for remembrance, blue violet for constancy, yellow tulips for hopeless love . . .”
To go under the poppy can mean many things.
“Something in him so loves the world that he gives himself to the laws of gravity and chance. Far from flying with the angels, he traces with the fidelity of a seismograph needle the state of the solid bloody landscape. His house is dangerous and finite, but he is at home in the world. He can love the shapes of human beings, the fine and twisted shapes of the heart. It is good to have among us such men, such balancing monsters of love.”
Leonard Cohen salutes the particularity of saints in the passage above; to me it speaks particularly of Mercury, and of puppets, and of Istvan the puppeteer, especially as his character returns, revolves, evolves, in THE MERCURY WALTZ.
To continue to investigate, to plumb and parse the tricky, humorous, amorous, cloven and singular state of that character, that saintly monster of love and of play, was play, for me, of a very joyful order, a joy I hope translates to the reader when that play is mounted and the story is read. Not everyone will find that story speaks to her, to him, of course, and that’s as it should be: not every god – or monster – appeals to every ear. But for those who hear what this story has to say, welcome to the balance! Or welcome back.
Each generation thinks it has – it must have! – invented both desire and sex; because, no doubt, it all feels forever new. But the 19th century knew just as much as the 21st. For a timely reminder, see Mihaly Zichy’s drawings, and let your bodice rip if it will.
There have been requests and suggestions for an Under the Poppy album of erotica, based on the “menu” of services available. The brothel ponders …
If in the city winter comes and goes in a swift gray coat of mist and snow, like a secret traveler eager to be off, then true spring takes its time to settle in: adrift and sullen in the rainclouds, unsure if the staying shall be worthwhile. But when at last the sun appears, its warmth spreads everywhere, insistent as the hordes of chattering black sparrows, fecund as the river adrift with life and death, fish heads and flotillas of swans and their cygnets, broken sprigs of pink heart’s-ease sent drifting to mark some lover’s advent or end, tossed by the maidservants and shopgirls in their ribboned serge jackets leaning over the still-cold stone of Crescent Bridge, eyed by the gray-suited bridge patrolmen and the quayside grifters and the stray cats who yawn at the statues’ feet like bored familiars, all teeth and pink gullets in the spill of lemony light. [from THE MERCURY WALTZ]
Some readers are certain that the city that is the stage for THE MERCURY WALTZ is actually Prague. Others claim, as certainly, other cities. Still others want to know which city it is “really,” finding the geography a puzzle that they’d like me, as the writer, to solve.
History is aggregate memory handed down, geography is fact on a map. The story of Rupert and Istvan, and their friends and enemies, is set in a landscape created by the mind – mine when I wrote it, yours when you read it – that may indeed wear the vestments of Prague, or of another place altogether. Fiction has its own boundaries, and the story of the Mercury Theatre and its actors is ultimately one of play: where something is what we say it is, what we agree it is, as long as the playing lasts.
We do have a marvelous time at our Poppy events! Here, Istvan (Steve Xander Carson) amuses the ladies (L to R, nerve ensemble members Laura Bailey, Marisa Dluge, Samantha Moltmaker, and Kathe Koja; photo courtesy Rick Lieder).
Outside, the snow shimmered and flew; inside, artist Megan Weber talked Tarot artistry, while Heatherleigh of Boston Tea Room offered on-the-spot readings. And another reading, from THE MERCURY WALTZ’s first chapter, set the stage and drew aside the curtain for the continuing story of Istvan and Rupert, watched over as always by the patron of speedy travel and artistic fabrication, “that foxing god whose name the theatre bears.”
Many thanks to the evening’s guests, some of whom braved long drives to be present at our fête. There’s no keeping the Poppy people from their fun …. And thanks again to the Boston Tea Room for hosting the celebration!
Delighted to have found this Poppy quote online while researching something else and other . . . A religious belief in the power of make-believe, yes indeed.