The following images of paper flowers, constructed and photographed by Thomas Demand, are based on a detail from a news photo of Katherine Russell, widow of the Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev. These images, and the accompanying poems by Ben Lerner, are part of a larger cycle, Blossom, which will be published in book form this summer.


Traditionally, you drink plum wine
Deepening the evening, a length of cloud
Then confuse a falling blossom with

A butterfly / In the photograph
Of the tradition, flowers in small corymbs
Papery against electric light

Blossoming en masse, in time lapse
You refer to a place where water flows
Over a vertical drop in culture / Poems

Fail to mention fission or decay
In the traditional ways, focusing instead
Then renouncing focus, a shimmering effect

In the middle distance, there is a monk
Likening this world to an echo, smoke
Slowly rising from some pyre, another year  

Gone, frostwork on the grass/glass
The nu suffix expresses completeness
The mu suffix indicates intention, I  

Function to measure impermanence
“Like a passing dream on a night in spring”
The petals shed their details



The suspicion that, too rapidly to be perceived
As they pass behind a stand of ornamentals
These clouds are being removed and then replaced

With identical masses of frozen crystals / I
Am the embodied form of that suspicion / I  
Have traveled all night to sing it / I

Was robbed and beaten on the road
Between two period styles, my eyes removed
Dipped in something, and replaced

When luminance sensitivity peaks
A shift toward the blue end of the spectrum
Inclines my song to natural satellites

Reflected in transparent fluids and/
Or glimpsed through branches, whether real
Paper or imagined, my song appeals

Not to be recorded, therein its claim
On the tradition, the fission and decay  
Of a temple bell across a lonely mountain

Somewhere in LA, a man has captured
And thereby canceled, the transience  
Of syllables falling onto man-made lakes



If six flowers bloom on the sample tree
The day of opening is officially declared
Signifying death in battle, the flowers appear

In the letters of young pilots, the ritual
Suicide a season is, the rising sun
Militarizes grasses, I have come

Writes one such pilot, to an understanding
With the petals and associated structures
The corolla of light my body makes  

As it opens in a market or a bus, whorl
Of sepals at the base or finish line
Of a marathon, improvised devices like

A kireji, or “cutting word” / In English  
There is no equivalent, only the ellipse
Where once there was a season, plums

Bloom prematurely, overtaking cherries  
Confusing bees and viewing parties, both
Anachronisms / My vision separated

So that I could watch myself become immortal  
Over the Pacific from my body
Where it remains, a shimmering effect



This page is blank except where indicated
This line left blank intentionally
There is a white so white that it appears

Only over many years, a period snow
Sparkling in belated light / Once erased
A poem can start, but how to end

Without beginning, I wrote this right
To left, but intended it to be read  
From the margins in, the way birds scavenge

Or, as the film rewinds, the fire spreads
“I have taken considerable delight
In your ability to picture grass (Rasen)

Straw (Stall), trees (Lichtung)
A dead plant (Klause), gold (Bullion)
A rumpled pillow (Raum), dirty water

To name a few of the things that seem
A long way from paper,” but how to figure
The will to capture, abstracted slowly

From Berlin, where, in lieu of falling
Which, in lieu of melting / While
In lieu of passing: “snow” “scars” “time”



The leaves move/are moved in small
Increments between frames, easy to mistake  
For traditional wind, the invisible hand

The phantom limb / A bomb or blazon
Breaks the beloved into parts
“Referred pain” is the beautiful phrase

All photographs bring to mind, if I
Can call this ensemble of excitable cells
A locus of sense, a lotus of sentiment

A flower with the rare capacity to revive
After centuries of stasis, or what I call
“Photography” / A big part of my practice  

Is being mistaken for a lily, the silence
Of aquatic perennials an influence
I hope your catalogue essay will acknowledge

With a ragged margin or blank pages
On the perennial verge of being turned  
In the sense of soil: lower layers exposed  

To obliterating light / Please refer all pain  
Less to the properties of surfaces than eyes  
The sleep of color, the sun at night



Socrates speaks of three bees: one that stings
Beyond sensation, one made by a carpenter
And one made by an artist in imitation  

Whereas I perceive a fourth, hovering
In the floral passage between forms  
Generating unlikely forces with its wings

Before dying at the onset of the winter
Socrates speaks of three winters, nested
Winters of decreasing size, the smallest  

Turned from a single piece of wood, while I
Think of winter as a kind of knowledge
Autumn gains too late to be of use

To the philosopher queen in her paper nest
Open celled, under eaves or ledges  
Presiding over twenty thousand imitations

Socrates says that ignorance is flight
From the knowledge of spring that summer is
Unless I have misread the passage, a mimesis

Made of pale blue filaments / The leaves
Close when touched or captured  
By a brief exposure to the negative



As flowers mimic female insects, luring males
As female flowers mimic male flowers
As hemiparasitic shrubs mimic the foliage

Of the host, so I mimic vocal patterns
Facial expressions, and I laugh
When collectors laugh, and when they weep

I place glistening glass beads
Beneath the area where my eyes should be
(My actual eyes are two dark holes

From which no information can escape)
I started as a sculptor, then became
Sculpture, translucent fiberglass and latex

Which my phone corrects to seppuku/
Sepulcher (I’m typing with my thumbs
From the River of Three Crossings)  

In the afterlife, the flowers provide
Sensory signals without nectar, and the bees
Aren’t bees, only sphinx moths, gifted

Mimics that cannot sting (the t is silent)  
But exhibit the characteristics of a stinger  
Warning colors and false sentiment