Thursday, July 03, 2008


Some Poems with Gardens


She is alive.  Although her doctors said
there was nothing to be done, she is home,
planting her summer garden, is not dead,
and plans to eat everything she has grown
in this plot, each carrot and tomato,
each squash, pepper, lettuce leaf.  She will live
beyond the harvest and what will not grow
is her tumor, its flowers held captive
and still beneath her heart.  Only the live
wire of her will separates her now from
the future displayed in black and white five
months ago, backlit clearly.  It will come
sooner or later, but this is her time
to cultivate and seed.  she is alive.

-- Floyd Skloot

* * *

"In the Garden"

Let's go out now
before the morning
gets warm.
Get your bicycle,

your teddy bear --
the one that's penny-coloured
like your hair --
and come.

I want to show you
I don't exactly know.
We'll find out.

It's our turn
in this garden,
by this light,
among the snails

and daisies --
one so slow
and one so closed --
to learn.

I could show you things:
how the poplar root
is pushing through,
how your apple tree is doing,

how daisies
shut like traps.
But you're happy
as it is

and innocence
that until this
was just
an abstract water,

welling elsewhere
to refresh,
is risen here
my daughter:

before the dew,
before the bloom,
the snail was here.
The whole morning is his loom

and this is truth,
this is brute grace
as only instinct knows
how to live it:

turn to me
your little face.
It shows a trace still,
an inkling of it.

-- Eavan Boland

* * *

"The Gardener to His God"

Amazing research proves simple prayer makes flowers grow
many times faster, stronger, larger.
-- Advertisement in The Flower Grower

I pray that the great world's flowering stay as it is,
that larkspur and snapdragon keep to their ordinary size,
and bleedingheart hang in its old way, and Judas tree
stand well below oak, and old oaks color the fall sky.
For the myrtle to keep underfoot, and no rose
to send up a swollen face, I simply pray.

There is no disorder but the heart's.  But if love goes leaking
outward, if shrubs take up its monstrous stalking,
all greenery is spurred, the snapping lips are overgrown,
and over oaks red hearts hang like the sun.
Deliver us from its giant gardening, from walking
all over the earth with no rest from its disproportion.

Let all flowers turn to stone before ever they begin to share
love's spaciousness, and faster, stronger, larger
grow from a sweet thought, before any daisy
turns, under love's gibberellic wish, to the day's eye.
Let all blooms take shape from cold laws, down from a cold air
let come their small grace or measurable majesty.

For in every place but love the imagination lies
in its limits.  Even poems draw back from images
of that one country, on top of whose lunatic stemming
whoever finds himself there must sway and cling
until the high cold God takes pity, and it all dies
down, down into the great world's flowering.

--Mona Van Duyn

 * * *

"The Garden"

It is a gesture against the wild,
The ungovernable sea of grass;
A place to remember love in,
To be lonely for a while;
To forget the voices of children
Calling from a locked room;
To substitute for the care
Of one querulous human
Hundreds of dumb needs.

It is the old kingdom of man.
Answering to their names,
Out of the soil the buds come,
The silent detonations
Of power wielded without sin.

-- R. S. Thomas

* * *

"Mother Jackson and the Tomatoes"

Peering though the spider grill at the window
of the habitation she calls her own,
Mother Jackson level with the lumpy, green tomatoes
pumping themselves up to maturity.
Distorted by the cataract crimp in her one serviceable eye,
they seem to cluster together in league against her.
She feels in her bones the chill of their self-containment,
interpreting it as a display of innocence, tinged with mockery.
The tightness of their pale, luminous skins
not yet primed to a blush
reminds her of her salad days --
taunting her with the green core-loneliness
of eighty unfulfilling years.
"Who sprinkled your seed
row by row in an old seed box?" she breathes,
"and transplanted your brat suckers
in earth rich with cow dung reduced to dust?
Who dragged the garden boy's hose two chains to water you?
And had to nag the garden boy to fetch those ragged sticks
staked upright and firm in the loam for you to lean on?
Who stabbed one crooked finger teasing out a tangle of raffia,
and fumbled stubborn knots, struggling
to anchor your limp stems to the crooksticks?
Who was it rescued you when your heads
of their own weight bowed to Mother earth?"
The fruit, devoid of human affection or malice,
though it is well known that plants respond to music of sorts,
continue to burgeon in silence.
But it seem Mother Jackson derives solace
from the thoughts in her own head.
"I should have let you take your chances with the slugs,"
she adds, a note of tenderness creeping into her voice,
"and saved myself the expense of the insect spray."
From where she stands in her parlour, Mother Jackson
could squeeze one arm through the grill
to reach out and caress the frilly party dresses,
or to count the fruit by touch, each on its splayed stalk.
She resists the temptation being mindful not to injure
the tender creatures she has nurtured.
The acrid scent of the plants fills her nostrils,
more health-giving than breath of peppermint or rosemary.

-- Gloria Escoffery

* * *

"Lazy Gardener"

Weeds have invaded my garden.
Queen Anne's lace embroiders the edges.
Lavender primroses trespass in
cracks of the pavement.
Adjuratum chokes the chrysanthemums
and the grass surrendered to
dandelions long ago.

Everywhere, everywhere honeysuckle
hems the hedges, breathing out
sweetness so strong
it drowns my senses.

I used to fight the weeds
and torn nails and scraped hands.
A few skirmishes I won,
but they always came back
stronger than ever.

Now grudgingly I give
them growing space.
Defeated in battle,
I sit in my garden chair
and take some pleasure in
the glowing color
that delights the eye.
Weeds and I have at last come to terms.

-- Helen F. Blackshear

* * *

"At the Botanical Gardens,
University of British Columbia"

The lyf so short, the craft so long to lerne,
th'assay so hard, so sharp the conquering,
the dredful joy, alway that slit so yerne,
all this mene I by Love . . .
-- Chaucer, Parliament of Fowles

Among the sepals crisping
where they strain apart to show
tips of blushy petals getting set
to push each other outward
into bloom, the bud
is readying
to extend its destiny.

The parts -- the drinking roots
the arching leaves the gorgeous
come-hither blossoming,
the dredful joy in days of time --
maintain their efforts separately

though the loft & drift
of heavy odor from the heart
as petals open over it
proclaim their joyful unity
even as it dissipates.

-- Marie Ponsot

* * *

"The Garden"

I couldn't do it again,
I could hardly bear to look at it --

in the garden, in light rain
the young couple planting
a row of peas, as though
no one has ever done this before,
the great difficulties have never as yet
been faced and solved --

They cannot see themselves,
in fresh dirt, starting up
without perspective,
the hills behind them pale green, clouded with flowers --

She wants to stop;
he wants to get to the end,
to stay with the thing --
Look at her, touching his cheek
to make a truce, her fingers
cool with spring rain;
in thin grass, bursts of purple crocus --

even here, even at the beginning of love,
her hand leaving his face makes
an image of departure

and they think
they are free to overlook
this sadness.

-- Louise Gluck

* * *

"The White Garden"

So white are the white flowers in the white garden that I
Disappear in no time at all among lace and veils.
For whom do I scribble the few words that come to me
From beyond the arch of white roses as from nowhere,
My memorandum to posterity?  Listen.  'The saw
Is under the garden bench and the gate is unlatched.'

--Michael Longley

* * *

"Primer on Digging"

Memory is the characteristic art form
of those who have just decided to die
and those who have just decided to live.
-- Daniel Stern, The Suicide Academy

Listen:  when you dig
in the garden
expect to be bitten.
Those fish heads you buried
last spring endure beyond seasons,
breeding their own subtleties.
Your fingers will encounter
the slow growth of moss,
the spasms of slugs
recoiling from salt.
Go further:  one mild earthworm
is not  sufficient to measure the world.
Hard by the brick wall
the roly-poly unfurls,
a bolus of damp memory
assaulting your nostrils.
Wait.  Don't reach for the spade.
You must touch the white root
with your fingers, follow
its search for cool water .
Now that your hands are submerged
notice how the dark treasures
quicken like dreams
beneath your swollen fingertips.

-- Dannye Romine Powell

* * *

"The Gardener's Litany"

We plant, it is true.
I start the tiny seedlings
in peat pots, water, feed.

But the garden is alive
in the night with its own
adventures.  Slugs steal

out, snails carry their
spiraled houses upward,
rabbits hop over the fence.

The garden like a green
and bronze goddess loves
zucchini this year but will

not give us cucumbers.
she does as she pleases.
Purple beans but no yellows.

Serve me, she whispers,
maybe I will give you tomatoes,
or maybe I will hatch into

thousands of green caterpillars.
Maybe I will grow only bindweed,
joe-pye weed and dandelions.

All gardeners worship weather
and luck,  We begin in compost
and end in decay.  The life

of one is the death of the other.
Beetles eat squash plant.  Bird 
eats beetle.  Soil eats all.

-- Marge Piercy

* * *

"In The Pea Patch"

These as they clack in the wind
saying castanets, saying dance with me,
saying do me, dangle their intricate
nuggety scrota

and these with the light shining through
call up a woman in a gauzy dress
young, with tendrils of hair at her neck,
leaning in a summer doorway

and as the bloom of the lime-green pod
rubs away under the polishing thumb
in the interior
sweet for the taking, nine little fetuses
nod their cloned heads.

-- Maxine Kumin

* * *


With his knife he cuts a small country of grass,
shakes it like a rabbit's skin, loosening
the clumps of blood-dirt.
Then he cuts at the weeds, their difficult leaves.
He cuts with joy, with determination,
without fear that they will come back --  which they surely will.

But it's the transplanting of the perennials.
How he lifts their slender noise, the buds' bright singing.
Then finds that one place for them to spill their seeds.

When he puts them into the ground,
a certainty comes back into the world --
that his line will continue
through these flowers,
these perennials' small exertings.
The roots already grabbing onto their tiny bit of earth,
these mother-strings.

-- Laura Lush

* * *

"The Round"

Light splashed this morning
on the shell-pink anemones
swaying on their tall stems;
down blue-spiked veronica
light flowed in rivulets
over the humps of the honeybees;
this morning I saw light kiss
the silk of the roses
in their second flowering,
my late bloomers
flushed with their brandy.
A curious gladness shook me.

So I have shut the doors of my house,
so I have trudged downstairs to my cell,
so I am sitting in semi-dark
hunched over my desk
with nothing for a view
to tempt me
but a bloated compost heap,
steamy old stinkpile,
under my window;
and I pick my notebook up
and I start to read aloud
the still-wet words I scribbled
on the blotted page:
"Light splashed . . ."

I can scarcely wait till tomorrow
when a new life begins for me,
as it does each day,
as it does each day.

-- Stanley Kunitz

* * *

"The Garden"

Welcome!  You think the bamboo stand
more lush this year?  You have an eye.
The people perish daily yet the island
blooms.  The blood of those who die

seems to enrich the soil and roses darken
to a warmer red, crotons
to a deeper gold.  How else explain the garden's
new exuberance?  Tonight the guns

will fertilize a lovelier tomorrow
while I stroll in splendid isolation
under the protection and shadow
of this wall, finding consolation

in music, poetry and art.  After all,
I do not pull the trigger, harbour no hate.
How fey of you, my dear, to smuggle this apple
past the customs.  Should I take a bite?

-- Ralph Thompson

* * *

"To a Garden Asleep"

Sleep, garden, in your beauty now:
You may, nor fear a meddling hand
Will dare disturb a single leaf.
Be what you are, your time is brief:
Do not attempt to understand,
Or wonder when or why or how

This moment will disintegrate.
It is, and while it is, you are.
The day is windless, and it seems
To hold the present fast; our dreams
Vanish into a distant star
Insensitive to human fate.

Extended leaves and petals fit
Exactly into the still air,
And neither proffer; nor refuse.
The quiet is complete.  No clues
Suggest another time will dare
To force your beauty to submit.

-- C. H. Sisson

* * *


Like beheaded geese plucked to their yellow skin they lie in the shade
Of an obscene but stalwart little forest of thick leaves,
Lost in all that heat, in a world they never made.

Brought into the house they lose their murdered, meat-shop look --
I place them along the stone wall on the porch,
Their necks entwined like abstracts of little yellow mandolins accompanied by a book.

In a manner of speaking, I have arranged for their rescue --
They are handsome as a Braque, accented by that important,
Lyric-looking volume with the jacket of dark blue.

Always and always the suspicion mounts
as we accumulate ourj world around us and see it rot
That, given the given, it isk what we do with a thing that counts.

Which is not to say that now or ever one will quite be done
With whatever dreams itself to be in us at first glance,
Little glutted, yellow-bellied, murdered geese lying in the sun.

But if on closer look the mandolins are warted, not quite so sleekly gold,
And the wind shallows through thekj pages of the books,
We shall have made our passion for a little while do as they were told.

-- Charles Edward Eaton

* * *

"The Sadness of Gardens"

Nothing sadder anywhere than this:
A garden at the end of summer.

Gone are the tomatoes and beans,
The broccoli and lettuce, the squash,

Melons and peppers, all that rich promise
Earlier in the year.  But even as

The rose petals fall and the hydrangeas
Brown and wither, they are preparing

For next year's crop, for return from rest,
For warm weather, turned earth, spring.

--Peter Huggins 

* * *

"Hillside Garden"

Older it seems than the h ouse,
Though by the upright slabs of the steps,
Weathered, but firm still,
And the terracing, hacked out of rock,
Alone a stranger can tell
That it rose from a vineyard's decay:
Not for white jasmine's fragrance breathed in
Or wisteria's, more harshly sweet,
Such labour here was expended.
But a rich moisture trickles
Through cracks, so that on the salvaged soil
Indigenous trees grow beside
Fruit bush, azalea, peony,
Threaten the absent owner
With a reversion to woodland, scrub.

What will outlast them all,
When to climb the steep slope,
To clear and plant and select
Proves too much for those pampered
As flower and shrub are now,
Grapevines were once,
Is ivy that sucks its living
From rock-face cavity, ledge,
Mounts apple, pear trunk too
Till with the stem, swollen,
It cuts, with its tendrils, leafage
\Drains or smothers the matrix, killing,
and at last will lift, then cover
Even the steps, unshored.

--Michael Hamburger

* * *

"In the Van Dusen Gardens"

Rhododendrons burst from hot green,
magenta splashed on with a lavish brush.
Blooms hang, pregnant and tropical, petals wet
with the moist translucence of desire.
I'm heavy, dazed by the floral sheen
lustrous as bruised lipstick.  I blush
at a blossom's dampfolds.  The flowers sweat.
And then, from this fire,

stillness.  Underfoot, a nutshell consoles
with the sealed promise of what it contains.
Beside the path a maze of veins
resolves itself in the skeleton of a leaf.
Lucent, perfect:  I think of our souls
and what they maintain.  Love. Belief.

-- Alison Calder

* * *

"After Gardening"

The last seeds have been planted,
and shadow has fallen, over
the long rows.  In the loose shingle
the wrens in their tiny nest sing
when the mother comes with their food.

Tired from planting, I'm lying
in the soft grass, listening.
I recognize the dove, the purple finch,
and the cardinal's What cheer, cheer, cheer . . . .

I want to rest here and savor
the first evening of summer,
its delicate green musk.  All winter
I looked out my window as if at a blank page,
planning the story of flowers.

Now the ruffled blue iris
joins the poppy with its frivolous orange heart
and the black scar at the center.
I can hardly remember
how I woke in the nights and wept
over something unchangeable.
This year, for the first time,
I noticed the early crocus without elation.

But now the habitual tasks
have carried me out here:  weeds
and the work of planting have left me
in the last natural light,

a light I can still see by.
Overhead, in the thin branches,
strands of the day are wound
with the pink threads of the evening,

and nearby, on the fence post,
a thrush is singing, busy with its life.

-- Patricia Hooper

The Mona Van Duyn poem is spectacular. I love it.
Isn't it, though? It's exactly the opposite of what you'd expect of a poem with that title.
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?