Poppies by Sarah Degner Riveros

The petals of a poppy flower are pompous, they may be of nearly any color. But after reading Sarah Degner Riveros poem Poppies, we all know that these poppies are red beneath hazy yellow skies. A poem you can visually see for your first Sunday in May, and May Day at that!

Welcome to Sunday Morning Lyricality, featuring a weekly song or poem by a Minnesota writer.

A friendly reminder that May is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month and we here Lyricality celebrate and recognize the contributions of those of Asian descent.

Our guest editor for April is Wendy Brown-Baez

Click here to read Wendy Brown-Baez’s thoughts on how poetry groups provide inspiration and support during difficult times.

The moment I met Sarah, I recognized a kindred spirit. She writes poetry despite the daily constant responsibilities of a life in all its messiness and vibrancy: raising 5 children and dealing with household chores, teaching Spanish classes, cultivating a garden and caring for chickens, and showing up for all things literary, hungry for ways to disentangle the challenge from the love. She is willing to investigate her experiences, some of which are painful and traumatic, and then pivot to notice the ordinary: a child’s toy, the bees in a garden, the stack of containers, the dust, the laundry, the kids running in and out, the fruits and the harvest. In another poem, for example, she brings our attention to the mundane in an incantation: 

Let there be carpet without stains, dogs / that don’t scratch, and silent vacuum cleaners that work.

Let there be trees with heavy canopies of leaves and / abundant fruit. But no fruit flies.
Let there be freezers / with shelves and pantries to store up goodness, and/ dusted lids
that fit tight, and labels for everything.

I chose Sarah’s poem Poppies because of the juxtaposition of wild-flowers to wild-fires, to the specific images of poppies in an array of hues, and the question: can they be wild if they are cultivated? Can we connect to the wildness within us if we are living in a city, in a family system, in societal expectation? The pop of color in this poem reminds me that spring will come, the fragility of life is its poignancy, and all seasons have a cycle.

-Wendy Brown-Baez

Sarah Degner Riveros

I tore up grass and planted
poppies, grey, red, peach-colored 
wildflowers. Can cultivated flowers 
be wild? As fragile as butterfly 
wings, petals scatter as hose-water 
lands hard. I water them soft-sparingly, 
to conserve fleeting beauty in this drought,
beneath hazy yellow skies.  Their floral fire
flares and fades as wildfires rage between
northern lakes.  One lone monarch
visits milkweed for a day, an urban 
oasis between cedars, marigolds, sun-
flowers, scarlet runner beans over 
chain link fences, on an inter-
generational journey south toward
home.  May we honor our fragile
interconnectedness, velvet 
petals, powdery wings, verdant leaves,
silver air, holy water, feather-flowers
that nectar-nourish pollinators
who feed us up and down
the food chain in
promise of future rest.


Sarah Degner Riveros teaches Spanish and studies Creative Writing at Augsburg University in Minneapolis. Her work has appeared in Sonora Review, Vassar Review, Pithead Chapel, Rogue Agent, Georgia Review, Yes Poetry, Tiger Moth Review, Barnstorm Journal, Janus Literary, Grey Sparrow, Bearings, Zone3, Porridge, Brain; Child, Mothering, and Azahares

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