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Tall Poppies Beware! Palm Springs, California, USA | by Rana Pipiens
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Tall Poppies Beware! Palm Springs, California, USA

There is a chilling story in Livy, the ancient historian of Old Rome. It is of King Tarquin the Proud of pre-republican Rome and his son Sextus, the infamous rapist of Lucretia (on whose suicidal blood the Republic was founded). King Tarquin could not subdue the Latium city of Gabii some 20 km east of Rome. Through trickery his son, Sextus, mastered the town. He sent a messenger to his father to ask him for instructions. Instead of uttering any, the King went into his garden and swung around his cane, beheading the tallest poppies in its reach. The perplexed messenger returning to Sextus without a letter told him of his father's action. Sextus knew instantly what was meant, and he had the most prominent citizens of Gabii immediately beheaded.

The poppies here reminded me of this story and of many other tragedies; e.g. those of all the young men who lost their lives in Flander's Fields ('where poppies blow...', the red, paper-thin variety), of the horrific nature of the Afghan War... and so much more.

It was at Palm Springs, California, that on this bright spring day, I saw these wonderfully large, pastel-colored flowers. I hardly rejoiced in the face of the Sad Duty that called me suddenly and unexpectedly away; and my thoughts turned to the morbid sides of history...

Yet the day was bright and the sky blue, and maybe a promise in the air. Where I was going no poppies yet, but I could put down a soft rose on a freshly sodded plot.

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Taken on March 14, 2009