Treatise on Love

1. The Empire of Flora A tossing garden in a rising wind, an air of expectation. And Claire tutoring me on the landscaping: pagoda plants, crotons, a kind of blue ginger; over there, African lilies, bellwethers of spring. When she points me to liriopes, I expect the terrace to be inhabited by a feminine miniature, nymph or naiad out of ancient Greece who makes a cushy, scented bed for fauns, or Jupiter Himself. I’ve forgotten that “cerulean Liriope” is the mother of Narcissus. The Empire of Flora, Claire says, is a disquieting kaleidoscope: limbs, and hair, and faces of those that love discountenances. For—as if I needed reminding— immoderate love comes to no good. Claire is wearing a crisp white shirt. To garden? … Ah, she’s rewinding her lecture on Poussin, who could take the measure of our hurt and scale it to the distance between roiling heavens and rock

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