Tender Only to One

April 13, 2012 § Leave a comment

Tender only to one
Tender and true
The petals swing
To my fingering
Is it you, or you, or you?

Tender only to one
I do not know his name
And the friends who fall
To the petals’ call
May think my love to blame.

Tender only to one
This petal holds a clue
The face it shows
But too well knows
Who I am tender to.

Tender only to one,
Last petal’s latest breath
Cries out aloud
From the icy shroud
His name, his name is Death.

– Stevie Smith

“Tender Only to One” plays with the “he loves me, he love me not” flower-plucking game of youth. The simple rhymes and lilting meter suggest a lullaby, and perhaps the narrator is singing herself to a final sleep. I like how the stanzas countdown the petals on the daisy death clock and how the lover’s name isn’t revealed until the last word.

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