Susan Gordon and Jennifer Brewer


Crocus, Coleus, Succulent, Begonia

Susan Gordon


Crocus, coleus, succulent, begonia

Slam bam, thank you, mam.

The colors punched me out: pink; yellow; magenta; yellow, again; red, blue, and green.

When I saw the brilliant blue I thought, “We’re underwater.” But the blue is flat, a background, not the sea, a blue that does not move.

Crocus, coleus, succulent, begonia

“Oh shit,” I say on second glance. The crocus, huge and pink, a pink that was paired with orange in the 1960’s, looks like it is going to subsume, hell, suck down the yellow begonia.

Slam bam, thank you, mam.

“A good fuck is a good thing.” Those words came out of my mouth in the middle of an English class. I was 19, a sophomore at Keuka (small Baptist) College and on the weekends I was having my first sex ever with Ralph Gordon, the Hobart grad, the Cornell Law student who would become my husband.

Slam bam, thank you, mam.

Crocus, coleus, succulent, begonia

I made the painting big on my screen. With my good Epson ink I print it out: dazzling, nearly psychedelic. Crocus, coleus, succulent and begonia separate out into different fantasia, fantastic, flowers.

The pink crocus with those orange and pink outer petals continues to reach for the begonia.

“Oh,” I say, right out loud. “Crocuses!”

I was a Presbyterian girl rejecting her religion when I met a Jewish boy, Ralph Gordon, who said to me, “We’ll raise the children Jewish,”

“Sure,” I said, and started studying Hebrew and going to Shul.

My mother wouldn’t allow me to visit Ralph in his Far Rockaway home that next summer because she “wasn’t going to have Jewish grandchildren.”

She relented and let me visit in mid-August.

On my first visit, Ralph’s father, Charlie Gordon took Ralph and me out into the backyard, a cement square bordered on three sides by lilies, roses, stasis. There were many flowers that I didn’t know but all were punch-you-out colors: pink, orange, magenta, reds, yellows, blues and purples.

And Charlie Gordon said to us,

“She believes something and she doesn’t know it.”

“You don’t believe anything and you do know it.”

“And I don’t give a damn if your children worship crocuses.”

Slam bam, thank you, mam.

Crocus, coleus, succulent, begonia

We were free to raise our children without strictures but to raise children to worship crocuses is a serious business; or so I always thought. But worshiping crocuses may look just like this painting.

I believed it meant raising kids who care for the earth and everything on it. I knew it meant having a daughter, Miriam, who insisted there would be spring flowers on her Dad’s casket whether that was permissible or not in a Jewish ceremony. She asked for crocuses but they weren’t to be found late in January but irises, daffodils, tulips were and they covered the casket throughout the service.

And worshiping crocuses may look just like this painting.

The succulent is perfectly painted a purple blue. I spread my fingers as it spreads its’ succulent petals and I know, it knows by touch.

The begonia (a begonia because it is on that nearly translucent watery stem) is yellow with flame colors at its’ base.

The viewer sees it from below. It is yearning up as the pink-orange crocus yearns for its’ fleeing yellow perfection.

Slam bam, no thank you, mam.

Crocus, coleus, succulent, begonia

The coleus is a vibrant observer; magenta leaves each with a yellow quarter moon center. I spread my fingers again and know that the coleus leaves are the eyes of the painting.

But for all the seeing, touching, reaching

each flower

is still, still as if it has had Beauty’s one hundred year sleep put upon it.

Not death, but sleep

And truly that is my state—one marriage, one man and now celibate for many years.

Everything stands still except

Slam bam thank you, mam

for the fucking little pistils and stamens

Those are zipping around all over the place.

Did I ever tell you how I became president of my freshman college class?

I ran on this platform: “Overnights at Hobart!”

You see, Hobart and William Smith College was within a twenty mile radius of Keuka College. We could have overnights with boys from Colgate, Hamilton, Syracuse, Cortland and Cornell, all schools more than 20 miles away. “Of course, no Keuka girl was going to sleep with any college boy,” but we could spend the night in those five schools in “suitable, separate lodging.”

I thought, months before I hooked up with Ralph, that this was the vilest of discriminations.

I was elected on that platform and then we all discovered that I had not one whit of executive functioning and so I delegated anything I could remember to Maxine Schwartz.

And, on my reasoning, Dean Bennett backed down and we could have overnights at Hobart. Her decision came just in time for my first tender, no sex, but in-the-same-double-bed-with-Ralph Spring Weekend. We were in his off-campus apartment. That apartment had gold-flecked red wallpaper in the stairwell and just below the bedroom window a red neon sign blinked on and off, on and off.

I always thought of flower sex as a quiet thing except for the gentle wings of butterflies and the humming of bees as they carry pollen from flower to flower, antenna and legs, golden, fertilizing everything.

But these pink flower penis/vulvas with tiny red brushstrokes along their sides and long thin proboscis and are zooming around.

I think they are un-tethered; I think they are flying free.

Crocus, coleus, succulent, begonia

Slam, bam, thank you, mam

But they aren’t.

These darting, star nosed, extend-their-spider-thin-threads beings are emissaries of the begonia.

The pistil/stamens/penises have translucent umbilical cords coming from the mother translucent stem.

(Stem seems too harsh a word.

In real begonias, water seems to rush through their fragile tiny haired limbs, limbs that wetly bruise and then crush.)

One of those pink penises with the red flecks actually has a pair of red and pink balls.

Slam bam, thank you, mam.

Crocus, coleus, succulent, begonia

I have thought all along,

“We’re not in water.”

“We’re not in water.”

The blue is too stationary, too flat

But I can’t account for the summer green growth that triangles the painting, holding it all together.

There is the green curling plant behind the crocus and just in front of one coleus leaf.

I can’t account for the dandelion like leaf that is buoyed by the flat blue.

It looks so much like the plants that fish hide behind in an aquarium.

And I can’t swear that the translucent limbs really belong to the begonia.

Really, I’m not sure of much except I am in the clearest and deeply stained,

cool to the skin, primordial sea.

Crocus, coleus, succulent, begonia

and a curling, feathering green electrified by blue

Maybe this is what I meant when I said

in proud innocence and uncomplicated belief

“a good fuck is a good thing.”

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  1. Posted February 27, 2011 at 10:58 pm | #

    Jennifer, Thank you for this amazing painting as an inspiration piece.
    I so loved this process with you and your wide-awake, pulsating work.

  2. Posted March 14, 2011 at 1:14 am | #

    Jennifer’s sensual visual meditation is met by Susan’s verbal one. I see the pollinators in both.