A dialectic of dark and light—and magnolias blossoming like afterthought

Somewhere, deep in a comprehensive exam prep period this semester, hopped upon caffeine and too much sugar and too little sleep and overwhelmed with stress about the upcoming test and the repercussions of failing, a phrase from Natasha Trethewey’s Native Guard jumped up and grabbed me by the throat.

I returned to a stand of pines,
                            bone-thin phalanx
flanking the roadside, tangle
                            of understory—a dialectic of dark
and light—and magnolias blossoming
                            like afterthought: each flower
a surrender, white flags draped
                            among the branches.
                                   –“South”  Natasha Trethewey
I was first struck by the ‘dialectic of dark and light’–I was in the middle of both Paradise Lost and The Republic,and had just finished Spring and All,  so I was thinking about conflicts and contrasts and everything that can be summed up in the binary opposites of “dark and light”.
But then.
magnolias blossoming like afterthought. Afterthought. Not perhaps considered as important as the dialectic, but somehow serving as the extra, the excess, that makes the dialectic ok. That makes everything ok. The dialectic of light and dark is structure and repression and rules for behavior and so much restriction and requirements–but life and spring and rebirth and regeneration and magnolias somehow redeem it all.

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My walks in spring are constantly interrupted by my need to record all of the beauty around. I never seem to tire of the flowers–these are a few of my favorites from the past few weeks.