I've always thought of this part of the poppy as being tough and durable, like bone.
Little poppies, little hell flames,
Do you do no harm?
You flicker. I cannot touch you
I put my hands among the flames. Nothing burns.
And it exhausts me to watch you
Flickering like that, wrinkly and clear red, like the skin of a mouth
A mouth just bloodied.
Little bloody skirts!
She then goes on to compare the flames of the poppies to the "fumes" she cannot touch: it's impossible not to think of how she died, by gas. I've often thought of the sad implications of that death, that she killed herself with a gas stove, a symbol of women's domesticity. It's widely believed she felt trapped in that life.
"Poppies in October" is a more hopeful poem. She writes of the blooms as "A gift, a love gift / Utterly unasked for / By a sky". Then, "O my God, what am I / That these late mouths should cry open / In a forest of frost, in a dawn of cornflowers." Her sense of awe here is so moving to me. It is as though she captures the soul crying out for love.
I took some photos of my poppies this year. Their blooms are so brief that, busy with other things--I often miss seeing them in all their glory.
As much as I love the blooms, I think I love them even more when the bloom sheds and the stem and seedpod stand in the garden. If the blooms are mouths, then, to me, the stems and seedpods are bones. I planted poppies in two places in my garden. The most prodigious poppies grow over the graves of my cats. The roots of the poppies feed on the bones of those cats, and I love these poppies the best.