Red Spider Lilies

by Bob Bradshaw
The Writer's Block
Second Place (tie), November 2019
Judged by Laurie Byro

Spider lilies line our garden path,
like a crowd carrying red candles.
It’s said they guide the dead
to their afterlife.

We strode this same walkway,
hands laced together.
Under August nights, we shared
moon cakes and Li Bo’s poems…

By fall you had dropped your hand
for the last time from mine.
It’s said red spider lilies grow
along the path where lovers last depart,

and sure enough more and more
of them leap up from the soil.
Resigned, I think of you
as too distant to be retrieved,

like a released sky lantern, drifting
towards someone else’s embrace

Red Spider Lilies breaks tradition and even uses the lesser known "Li Bo" rather than Li Bai, or Li Po. I am not familiar with this type of lily and discovered that it was introduced to Japan from China, I wondered why Li Po and not Basho, but the poem reminds me of a Li Po poem, the River Merchant's wife, when he or she says "by fall you had dropped your hand" echoing the obvious separation. But there are all those allusions to death. We aren't entirely certain if these two are separated by death, but hopeful that this is not a permanent separation as there is so much grace and acceptance in these few strophes. "Hands laced together" (pun intended) is a nice touch. I keep going back to this poem, and almost gave it a tie for first place, it is so gentle and wise, and for its content and brevity, seems Asian in its simplicity. --Laurie Byro